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PROCESSED 



US3SF*5 




BIG PROCESSED FOOD ISSUE 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 



http://www.archive.org/details/processedworld15proc 






PROCESSED 
WDP.LO 

Talking Heads 2 

introduction 

Letters 3 

tiom our readers 

Skeleton 9 

poem by Harvey Stein 

Quarantine Corner 10 

collective editorial 

Dear Del Monte 13 

article by Paxa Lourde 

Chainsaws & CRTs Do Not A Forest Make 20 

review by Primitivo Morales 

Fire Against Ice: Cannery Strike 23 

article by Caitlin Manning & Louis Michaelson 

Montgomery Street Morning 29 

fiction by Steve Koppman 

Road Warriors & Road Worriers 31 

tale of toil by Bob McGlynn 

Poetry 38 

Simon, Paris, Watson, Hamilton, Zable, Warden 

925 Crawl 40 

fiction by Kathleen Hulser 

Remembrance Of A Temp Past 42 

review by D.S. Black 

Cover Graphic By: Norman Dog 



"The Magazine 
With A Bad Attitude 




CREDITS: Primitivo Mor- 
ales, Pauline Slug, Linda 
Thomas, Ana Logue, Den- 
nis Hayes, Emily, Lucius 
Cabins, Paxa Lourde, Max- 
ine Holz, Zoe Noe, Med-O, 
Louis Michaelson, D.S. 
Black, Friends of the Toad, 
Myra Way, Steve C, The 
Big Mud Duck, Clayton 
Sheridan, Bevel, Michelle 
L.P., and many others... 





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Talking Heads 1 




Processed World has changed enormously over the four 
and a half years since it began. Many of the changes seem 
entirely positive. We've gained a lot of skill in editing and 
production. We tackle a wider range of subjects. Our 
circulation has risen — and broadened; we now reach most 
European countries (including Poland and the USSR) as well 
as Australia, Malaysia and the Antilles. PW articles have 
been reprinted in eight or more foreign languages. We've 
been written up in all kinds of publications both local and 
national. In short, we present at least the appearance of a 
"professional" alternative magazine with a growing 
international reputation. 

In an important sense, though, the magazine has gone in a 
different direction than the one its founders intended. PW 
was to be a meeting point for dissatisfied and rebellious 
workers in the "new" technical and service sectors, a place 
where they could vent their frustrations and share their 
dreams. So far, so good. But we wanted to go beyond 
frustration-venting and dream-sharing to help develop 
strategies for organized resistance at work. We wanted the 
rebellion to become practical. 

In 1980-1981, this didn't look so farfetched. Revolt was in 
the air — over the draft, nuclear power, pollution. Punk had 
galvanized many young people (including us) with its stylish 
anti-style and fuck-you attitude. Major efforts were 
underway by various unions (SEIU, Local 925, etc.) to 
organize private-sector office workers. More important, 
there were underground "independent unions" and 
employee networks in several large corporations. But as the 
Right got a firmer grip on the mass media and as the 
recession hit, terrorizing millions of workers into submission, 
the revolt largely faded away. Today, an atmosphere of 
anxious subservience, thinly veiled in born-again patriotism 
and consumption-mania, pervades daily life. 

With office work in particular, the problem goes even 
deeper. PW has always distinguished its "take" on work- 
place organizing from more traditional approaches by point- 
ing out that most work in the modern office is at best useless 
in terms of real human needs, and at worst (as with real- 
estate, banking, and nuclear and military contracting) 
actively destructive. Rebel office workers, sensing this, don't 
identify with their work. They generally change jobs often 
and work as little as possible. Their revolt takes the form of 
on-the-job ^organizing — absenteeism, disinformation, 
sabotage. They seldom view as worthwhile either the risk or 
the effort involved in creating a workers' self-defense 
organization. Moreover, rightly or wrongly, they believe that 
most workers, who identify more with their jobs, also identify 
with management. As a result, the rebels tend to be as alien- 
ated from their co-workers as they are from the boss. 



Perhaps this is why PW s extensive discussions of autono- 
mous office-worker organizing seem to fall largely on deaf 
ears — while its frequent references to sabotage have made it 
notorious. Nevertheless, we are pursuing our interest in col- 
lective worker resistance with two articles in this issue — Fire 
Against Ice, which describes how a previously passive work- 
force of immigrant women at two frozen food plants have 
fought back with their own organization against manage- 
ment, the law, and the dead weight of "their" union, and 
Road Warriors/Road Worriers, which analyzes the condi- 
tions faced by New York bike messengers and discusses their 
attempts at change. 

Still, any real mass upsurge seems far away. In that case, 
isn't PW in danger of marketing the image of a non-existent 
revolt to be passively consumed by its reader-contributors? 
Perhaps. But we think that even in the absence of real revolt, 
PW is helping to create the cultural preconditions for it. Again 
and again, readers tell us: "I thought I was the only person 
who felt this way. Now I know I'm not alone." One of PWs 
principal aims is to make people feel good about hating their 
jobs, not to mention despising the dullness and ugliness of so 
much of life in general. Hence our continuing focus on night- 
mare visions of that life, expressed in this issue in 925 Crawl, 
a journey through the office world's Heart of Darkness, and 
Montgomery Street Morning, in which a young worker looks 
twice at the ragged casualties hitting him up for spare 
change, with eerie results. The isolation and alienation of the 
lone office rebel are also powerfully described in The Temp, 
reviewed here in Remembrance of a Temp Past. 

PW has always maintained that, beyond a culture of 
resistance and some organized self-defense against 
corporate and governmental power, we need a complete re- 
invention of the social world. This reinvention can begin, in 
imagination at least, from almost any aspect of contemporary 
reality. Thus Dear Del Monte, which starts out as a hilarious 
account of work in the complaints department of a food 
processing company, concludes with a vision of how our 
relationship to producing food — and thus to the land 
itself — might be transformed. Our other book review in this 
issue, Chainsaws and CRT's, picks up on the same theme in 
its discussion of Ecodefense, a handbook of "monkey- 
wrenching," direct-action techniques for defending our 
remaining wilderness against the likes of Crown Zellerbach. 

Finally, it comes down to this. Through PW, we try to 
assert lucid imagination against Rambo-style reactionary 
fantasy, true diversity against careerist "individualism," 
free solidarity against authoritarian fake community, name- 
less wildness against well-organized death. This helps us to 
survive a bleak time. We hope it does the same for you. 
Together, perhaps, we can achieve a lot more. Write us. 

Processed World, 55 Sutter St. #829, San Francisco, CA 94104 



LGTTGRS 




Notes From The High Heeled Feminist 

Let's get a few things straight. For one 
thing, there is nothing wrong with being 
sexy (albeit, if the High Heeled Feminist 
has to look at one more picture of Ms. 
Madonna she is going to vomit). Repressed 
sexuality is, in my humble opinion, one of 
the prime causes of sexism. 

The H.H.F. is, I admit, somewhat 
fortunate in the fact that the office in which 
she works enforces no dress code. The 
H.H.F. has been known on occasion to 
show up to work in slit skirts and skin tight 
stirrup pants. Whereas this mode of attire 
may be perfectly acceptable on the dance 
floor, it can produce very subliminal traces 
of nervousness among the H.H.F. s male 
co-workers. But, thank God, it doesn't 
elicit the thinly guised flirtations one 
witnesses in the elevator among the well 
dressed set. 



Three piece suits seem to effect the 
corporate hormones in a very peculiar way. 
Business persons who work from nine to 
five exist in a very definite time structure 
and tend to organize their social life 
accordingly. They make initial contact 
during business hours, negotiate over 
lunch and close the contract after five. 
Business becomes pleasure and vice versa. 
The H.H.F. thinks this is all a piece of 20% 
polyester wool blend pocket lint. 

I mean, how can anyone start a meaning- 
ful relationship over the clickety clack of 
the archaic typewriter and the gratifying, 
yet sterile, exchange between the worker 
and the word processor. Hey, the H.H.F. is 
a modern girl and know how alluring those 
peripheral devices can be (look forward to 
my next essay on the computer widow). 

But getting back on the subject, it seems 
that overt sexualitv threatens the white 



male superiority complex more than 
corporate feminism. Is it because women 
who celebrate their sexual differences are 
considered to be stupid and therefore 
unacceptable as coworkers, or is it simply 
that those wool tweeds and starched collars 
leave so much more to the imagination (the 
H.H.F. is, incidentally, in total agreement 
with Michelle La Place's article "The 
Dead-End Game of Corporate Feminism" 
that graced the pages of Processed World 
#7). 

. Then again, the woman who plays the 
man's game of 'dress for success' may just 
be a higher trophy of conquest. What the 
white male superiority complex really 
yearns for is complete female subordina- 
tion on all levels of the corporate ladder 
(the H.H.F. admits to generalizing shame- 
lessly; Yes, Virginia they're all a bunch of 
poodle butts). 

Now don't get me wrong, the H.H.F. 
does not go out of her way to dress 
provocatively to exploit her figure. Au 
contraire, the H.H.F. is painfully (it only 




PROCESSED WORLD #15 



hurts when I laugh) aware of the fact that 
she has no figure to exploit in the first 
place (I'm in favor of androgyny, actually, I 
even asked for a gender blender for 
Christmas, but I got a Cuisinart instead). 
No, the H.H.F. dresses as if she were on 
the dance floor because that is bloody well 
where she would rather be. 

What it all boils down to is a question of 
self expression and being able to be 
yourself in all walks of life no matter who or 
what you are (albeit if the H.H.F. has to 
look at one more picture of Ms. Cyndi 
Lauper she is going to vomit; look forward 
to my upcoming essay on women in 
corporate rock) without having to be 
exposed to those "acceptable levels" of 
sexism that can be oh so tiresome. I mean, 
haven't we all got more important things to 
occupy our mental energy on? Until next 
time... 

Love and anarchy, 
The High Heeled Feminist 

Dear PW, 

As a single feminist, I must admit when I 
read both articles on motherhood in #14 I 
was prepared to be annoyed. However, 
they turned out to be quite reasonable and 
very well written. There was none of that 
we-biological-mothers-are-superior air that 
I have sometimes personally encountered. 

Though childless myself, I feel that 
parenthood and co-equal parenting are 
central issues that in one way or another 
affect every woman and man. I myself 
quite proudly belong to two family-cen- 
tered, anti-interventionist alternative birth- 
ing and childcare groups. 

I remember several years ago at work 
one real princess type shrieked at me "You 
can talk if you ever have any children" 
when I dared to put my two cents in about 
overly clinical, high tech maternity care. 
As it was she was very machine and male- 
doctor-god oriented, but my views were the 
ones vindicated some years later. I wonder 
what she thinks of co-equal parenting. 

Anyway, I hope someday you have 
articles by single women without children 



mi se&fi© 



Q 
frr 



UTS fw>«#^»£v;„ 



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who are also doing their thing to fight this 
over-technologized, over- homogenized 
world we live in. 

As extended family, we contribute too. 
Auntie Mimi — Merion Stn., PA 

Dear PW, 

Something just crystallized in my mind 
today: 

I have long been stuck for an answer 
when people ask me the embarassing 
question, "Are you working?" Now it has 
finally occurred to me that their reason for 
asking can be broken down into four 
different components: 

1) They want to know if I'm filling my 
time with some satisfying, "productive" 
activity like an adult is supposed to do; 

2) They want to know if I have enough 
money to make ends meet; 

3) They want to know if I'm being a 
"liberated woman" and earning my own 
paycheck; 

4) They want to know if I'm conforming 
to the puritan work ethic for its own sake 
(i.e. "Doing work you hate is good for 
you") which they've been conditioned to 
accept as gospel. This attitude is especially 
prevalent in Boston. 

I think people's reason for asking that 
question is usually a combination of all four 

ryrr>Tr<r<r<rd"<rr<nnr<ryyri 

The Metaphor Family 



a j 



Something is wrong at Ralph & Norma Metaphor's home. Ralph hasn't even touched his picture of martinis! 




of these, but I'd have a different answer for 
each one: 

1) I might be able to if people like you 
would get off my back! 

2) Yes, I live with a postal employee who 
makes $20,000 a year. 

3) No. My definition of feminism in- 
cludes a rejection of the patriarchal money 
system. Your definition of feminism dis- 
criminates against housewives. 

4) No, and I never could and never 
will!!! I'm not a masochist!! 

Some of these answers may seem to 
contradict each other and sound hypo- 
critical, and the "liberated woman" part is 
the stickiest. Oh well — I don't have it all 
figured out yet, but I'll keep working on it. 

Incidentally, you can use my full name. . . 
Bridget Reilly isn't even my "real" name, 
and certainly not the one anyone else in SF 
knew me by. I only invented it after I 
moved to Boston. I had found that 
"passing for Irish" was a very handy way 
to get around in this part of the country. 
Heh, heh, hehl) 

Love, Bridget — Boston 

Dear PW, 

Jake hit on a very common theme for 
women of our day in "Sweet Relief" [PW 
#13]. I know there is boredom and fantasti- 
cal hopes involved in what seems the flow 
of life out there. 

I have spent my entire summer concen- 
trating on my mind while my body has 
remained alienated from others. No sex in 
two months and the men that come on 
don't turn me on. Food obsessions provide 
sensational pleasure; and as a recovering 
anorexic- bulimiac I know the eat and eat 
and be thin conflict. It is a social problem 
for which women must develop alterna- 
tives. 

Affirming that the curvature of flesh is 
admirable. Demonstrating the supportive 
and accepting friendships formed by 
groups of committed women. 

Thanks for addressing the issue, 
Sweet Visions 

Dear PW: 

Your magazine has been a source of pro- 
found joy for me since I discovered it with 
PW #6. It's good to know there are other 
alienated androids out there, and that 
some of them are thinking of alternative 
futures. 

I have a "good job" as a word processor 
with Bank of America. Everyone at BofA 
these days is talking about cutting the "fat 
and waste" out of our operating expenses, 
and making the organization more "effi- 
cient and productive." 

This translates as: Hire too few 
employees to handle the workload, don't 
spend the necessary funds to give them the 
right tools, make them come in early, work 
all day without breaks, then ask them to 
stay late and come in on weekends too. 

As the only word processing operator 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 



serving approximately 20 managers, I'm 
constantly having jobs shoved in front of 
my face, invariably classified RUSH or 
URGENT. Each manager feels that his/her 
job is more important than anyone else's, 
that whatever I'm doing now should be 
dropped immediately so theirs can be done 
right away. 

In contrast with my last job, where the 
managers always made sure the operators 
took scheduled coffee and lunch breaks, 
nobody ever asks if you've had lunch yet at 
BofA. The prevailing feeling here is 
"there's too much work to go to lunch." To 
stop work at any time for any reason is just 
not part of the company spirit. 

Most of these documents are of sur- 
prisingly little substance. Vague narratives 
about the need to develop new products 
and improve profits, in which great atten- 
tion is focused on fancy, artistic format- 
ting, but which contain no real 'meat and 
potatoes' ideas on how to achieve these 
goals are continuously churned out for end- 
less 'presentations.' Ideas which could 
easily be expressed with a couple of 
paragraphs of simple text are turned into 
complex charts and diagrams. My constant 
pleading for equipment better suited to 
these special, difficult formats are always 
turned down because they would cost too 
much at a time when "we really need to cut 
our expenses," yet my department 
changed its name four times in the six 
months, a very expensive process, since all 
the stationery, e.g., letterhead, business 
cards, note pads, etc. bearing the old 
department name must be destroyed and 
new ones printed. 

Never have I worked anyplace where 
everyone is so frantically busy and working 
so hard at doing nothing! 

I'd personally love to distribute PW and 
help sow dissent among the other workers 
at the orifice, but I find it's very difficult to 
have any conversations with anyone at 
BofA about important things, like values, 
politics or alternative lifestyles. Seems 
everyone is really paranoid about losing 
their jobs, so the conversation is limited to 
mundane talk about the weather, sports, 
how busy everyone is, or plans for the 
weekend. 

I do my job well, I guess, since I'm one of 
the very few employees who didn't get laid 
off despite my junior status in a recent 
series of departmental budget cuts. 
Nobody seems to suspect that inside I'm 
seething with boredom and secretly 
subscribe to Processed World. 

As with everyone else at PW, the 
paycheck keeps me from being another one 
of the homeless, sleeping on heating 
grates, and lets me have a little spare time 
and money to do things I consider worth- 
while. 

I would love to hear from anyone at PW 
who has creative ideas for alternatives to 
the corporate orifice drag, especially more 
about worker owned collectives, or har- 



nessing computer and automation techno- 
logy in the interests of the people, to 
eliminate boring, mundane work for 
humans and create a society of abundance 
and 100% unemployment for everyone. 

Sincerely, 
JF. 

Dear PW, 

Well alright #14, special theme, graphic 
possibilities, and trials 'n tribulations... 
hmmmm... Anyway, thank you 4 sending 
the World and of course i love it 4 the hope 
it suggests. But you must realize that what 
is being discussed is not the process(ion) 
away from capital or state socialist 
bondage. Yes, indeed the process of 
raising consciousness is of course the 
essence of change. . .and yet the sad truth is 
that one does not do something by merely 
talking about it. Especially the matter of 
making one's misery public — which also 
serves to sensitize the naive to a repertoire 
of repercussions. Well you might ask: 
What future?? And, the repeated reifica- 
tions regarding the creation of alternatives 
cannot be realized with the conventions of 
symbolic/semi-resisters (i.e. "this ain't no 
party. This ain't no disco."). To really 
begin "developing positive solutions" it is 
necessary to comprehend the problem — in 
this case, bondage and addiction to the 
commodities and accoutrements of ma- 
terialism. However, for the matter of 
movement comes those considerations 
regarding motives and objectives. NO 
mass psychotherapy nor consciousness 
raising will suffice to achieve anything but 
collectivization, in which case the criticism 
of a "tyranny of the working class" will 
become grimly evident (those of you with 
camp, military or prison experience may 
recall what such organizations engender). 
And this was/iz the point of the obser- 
vation that even such as you exemplify and 
display those mannerisms or characteris- 
tics of the authoritarian. The point iz to 
realize that however creative/cleverly com- 
municated exhortations to awaken and live 
a life in celebration of spontaneity — it will 
not actually happen until the choice and 
movements are made — the reinforcements 
of a status quo are more familiar and 
consistent. And the dictum "Arbeit Macht 



White Flag #2 

Rimbaud vs. Rambo 

Brutal Pen 

Slashes words barking 
Across the jungle 
Goddammit ruining the point. 

Linda Thomas 




Frei" is nonetheless what the procession is 
all about — no "invention," just realiza- 
tions that some 'things' about the urbane 
proletariat are constant. No matter the size 
or color the magazines it is still instruction/ 
inducement to conform... But do tell us 
more! 

Onward with Love, 
Obiter Dictum 
Folsom Prison 

Hello to those of Processed World, 

Here I sit listening to the sound of 
jack-hammers and non-operational air- 
cooling units. The terminal faces the door 
side of the "laundry." Moldering red 
brick, slightly sway-backed sides, rein- 
forced by steel rods and plates bolted 
together; primer grey steel bars set into 
sandstone with a wire mesh overlay. The 
printer is playing its grating tune with tiny 
whistles and beeps interspersed to keep 
me from forgetting: it is just a machine. I 
munch a carrot in between sentences and 
wish I had brought more to this chamber of 

electronic deliberation. "Deliberation" 

This thought is one I hestitate to examine. 

According to the dictionary: Liberate = 
To set free, as from oppression, confine- 
ment, or foreign control. Deliberate = 1. a. 
Planned in advance: premeditated, b. Said 
or done intentionally. 2. Careful and 
thorough in deciding or determining. 3. 
Leisurely or slow in motion or manner. 

So, here I sit, in this room of careful 
consideration, premeditated intentions and 
plenty of background noise. Conversations 
in New Yorkese rolling across the voids 
between terminals. Chicago adds another 
dimension. Why, I ask the CRT, is 
deliberation not an obvious opposite of 
liberation? Why is this word, an obvious 
negation, buried behind a meaning of 
propriety and thoughtfulness? Inflate:de- 
flate; encode:decode; insist:desist; em- 
bark:debark; . . . .liberate:deliberate 

So, here I sit, carefully, premeditatedly, 
sometimes leisurely and sometimes not, 
consciously — de-liberating — myself by the 
act of interacting with this techno-object. 

It is not uncommon to watch prisoners sit 
in front of these screens and de-liberate 
themselves into an oblivious state. One in 
which time and motion take on secondary 
or almost unconscious tertiary relations. 
The eyes become a bit glazed from the 
green hue of the display, instructions pass 
from one terminal to another by word of 
mouth and the eyes never leave the screen, 
as if the ability to speak is granted by its 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



very greenness.. 

On occasion, a person, or thing, or being 
of limited consciousness and often less 
conscience, will enter and yell a name into 
the midst of the glazed expressions. 
Repressed hostility, behind green eyes, 
flaunted without care at the being who 
dares interrupt this de-liberating process. 
A servant of the state is left with a foul 
taste, always, when he/she interrupts or 
intrudes upon this process. The servants 
have no way of understanding. They have 
little knowledge or ability to interact with 
the CRT and fear it; an extension of the 
fear of those in communication with it. 
"Communicants." We, who sit here before 
you, are communicants. We are commun- 
ing our deliberation across the synapses 
and into the plastic keys to the locks on the 
transfers to the box with the fan in it and 
the little thing that looks like a record. 

At what point does de-liberation become 
liberation? At what point does knowledge 
and the desire to know become a 
deliberating process? Habilitaterdehabili- 

tate 

The little box with the fan spins the 
current around and sends it back to the 
CRT. I look at it and know that I did it 
deliberately. It was planned, not spontan- 
eous, studied and ordered pressing of the 
keys that has placed me deep within this 
green space. No peace, just space. Ripping 
through the a- noon like some kind of 
plague without a victim and starving for a 
resting spot, my thoughts are caught like a 
speck of dust in a cross wind. Shot with 
anxiety, knowing the time is approaching 
for separation from this electrical reflector 
of our own remorse. Yes, I did say 

remorse. Well, O.K., write — not — say 

But I did say it to myself. Honest. I can 
hear it very plainly. As clearly as the 
snappy plastic sound of these keys as I 
watch my fingers trip across them. Yes, 
trip... and watch. Not always, but enough 
so that it is noticeable to a real typist. I'll 
•never make it as a data person. I'll never 
be a real keyboard racer. I always have to 
look. I mean, why not, they're just right 
there, one little glance away. 

The beings that represent the State are 
busily readying themselves to disconnect 
us from our communal attractions. We, the 
communcants, are beginning to fidget in 
our seats. Our sweaty bottoms stuck to the 
chairs' plastic covers; my shorts tangled in 
my crotch from constant shifting in the 
chair. The rush for last minute print-outs is 
on. Like a small orgasm, one can feel the 
relief that sighs through the room as one 
after another finds that — there was just 
enough time to have the printout run. 
Without the printout, a small form of terror 
would grow. With the printout, vast things 
are possible. A little piece of the 
de-liberation is carried away, back to the 
cell. The beings of the State will look at 
them and squint their eyes (in wonder and 
think terrible things about these rumina- 



tions on paper with holes on the sides. 

Blank staring eyes and dead screens 
show themselves as nothing more than 
that, dead screens. Only the faces of the 
communicants, their lips curled back from 
their recent separation, reveals the pain 
beneath the scowls. We file out the door 
towards the cells and the inevitable 
counting of our bodies. Always being 
counted for something. Always 

We have been separated from our de- 
liberations by the iniquities of a State, that 
doesn't realize just how immersed in our 
communing we have become. Why must 
we be separated? We could de-liberate so 
much better if we could take the eye and 
the keyboard to the cell with us. Is there a 
way out of here through the eye? The 
beings of the State seem to watch us so 
strangely when we work here and 
commune in green. 

Do you await your time of electrical 
communing as if there was just a bit more 
involved than pressing keys and arranging 
data? 

The sun is approaching the dim position 
and the barred windows are lost in shadow. 
I must turn away from the screen. I must 
do it. Or else, or else, I won't be allowed to 
commune with it later. 

L.W. —Leavenworth Penitentiary, KS 

Dear PW, 

Congratulations on your new format. We 
are adding you to our "recommended 
reading" section. It's encouraging to see 
that not everyone has failed into the blind 
acceptance of modern technology trap. 

Since January of 1984, we have been 
attempting to convey to people the concept 
of technology used AGAINST the indivi- 
dual through a monthly newsletter called 
2600. Such developments as electronic 
switching systems, which are able to 
compile quite a bit of data on each of us by 
recording what numbers we call and when; 
FBI lists; credit data that paints a very 
pretty picture of our lifestyles; and so on. 
We also believe that each and every one of 
us has every right to know EXACTLY what 
this technology is being used for and how it 
works. We print this information because 
we want our readers to keep thinking and 
asking questions. 

We had a computer bulletin board 
system; it wasn't hard for the authorities to 
confiscate it and ust the excuse that it was 
being used to move satellites in the sky! 
Incredible but true. This lack of under- 
standing can be and has been used to hurt 
us and it will get much worse if we don't 
keep our wits about us. 

If any of your readers have any advice for 
us or would like to read what we've been 
saying, our address is 2600, Box 752, 
Middle Island, NY 11953. 

Sincerely, 

The Folks at 2600 

(516)751-2600 



Dear PW, 

I have been reading PW since the first 
issue and I thought that #14 was the best so 
far. I definitely prefer the expanded size 
which allows for more lengthy articles and 
more thorough discussion. This issue 
demonstrated the merits of a magazine 
with vague, unspecified parameters. 
Where else could I find articles about Lego 
politics, office politics at Hewlett-Packard, 
and poetry all in the same binding? You 
will always attract a wide and energetic 
circle of correspondents as long as you 
continue to print bold articles like "Equal 
Opportunity Parents: Just How Equal Can 
We Be?" 

In particular, I was drawn to F.L.'s letter 
and the debate it provoked within PW. She 
raised some points that were carefully 
avoided by most of your responses: that the 
authoritarian structure of our society "is 
only symptomatic of the real problem... 
individuals have insulated themselves from 
the mess that it is in." Most leftists do not 
want to hear that, and would like to ignore 
the fact that "the Masses," ourselves 
included, are actively complicit with the 
authoritarian social structure. 

In response to this point, (that most 
people are indiscriminate slaves to any 
ideology that will "liberate" them from 
having to make decisions and bearing 
responsibility for the consequences), Louis 
Michaelson says F.L. is "blaming the 
victim." Med-o says "it's all too clear that 
the primary cause of our misery is inter- 
national capitalism, both corporate and 
state sponsored." Ana Logue agrees: "For 
it is capitalism itself and its reduction of 
life to the pursuit of profit that is the cause 
of our dissatisfaction." 

None of the writers from PW chose to 
investigate the implications of what F.L. 
was really saying: that most of us act 
irrationally (not in our own best interests) 
and that it is the character structure of the 
average person that forms the strongest 
basis for authoritarian societies. 

You cannot impose freedom on people 
who are shaken to the core with fear of 
freedom. 

There is, to be sure, a symbiotic 
relationship between capitalism and the 
people who are " sold on it . " However, any 
theory about objective conditions and their 
effects on my life which robs me of my 
responsibility for my own situation is point- 
less. We all share an unconscious desire to 
be led out of our misery rather than making 
the decisions necessary to change it our- 
selves, and accept the consequences. 

Med-o touched upon the undercurrent of 
psychology bound up in this issue. But his 
sarcasm betrayed his contempt for sexual- 
ity: "I guess all we need is mass psycho- 
therapy to set things straight." 

We don't want to understand the roots of 
irrational behavior. We need to grasp those 
roots before we can hope to rationalize 
social power. 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 



Recently I discovered a technique of 
critical thinking called "character analy- 
sis" developed by Wilhelm Reich. Charac- 
ter analysis involves breaking through the 
patient's social facade and chronic muscle 
tension with the goal of achieving a unity 
between inner emotions and outward 
expression. This is the flip side of Marx's 
conception of "alienation." 

People who are in sexual stasis over a 
period of years develop chronic neurosis, 
that is, they cling to an irrational set of 
behaviors. A boy who is circumcised at 
birth by those to whom he looks for love 
and guidance does not develop a castration 
"fantasy," he lives in real, paralyzing fear 
that he will be attacked in the genitals. 
Thus adults accustom themselves to an 
overwhelming feeling of powerlessness 
and impotence, both socially and sexually. 
I don't want to stick my balls out. 

The neurosis is fed literally from 
dammed up sexual energy. Sexual grati- 
fication—a rare commodity — is replaced 
with activities that deaden the emotions 
and weaken the heart: war, pilferage, rape, 
intellectual specialization and religion. A 
vicious cycle in which we spin from op- 
pression to repression, never questioning 
how to get out. 

I feel psychic contact with my friends 
only infrequently. The party chit-chat and 
worktime bullshitting never seem to 
scratch beneath the surface of a seething 
emotional sea. I feel that this lack of 
contact has something directly to do with 
the fact that we so rarely taste emotional 
eruptions along with the attendant risks 
and satisfactions. 

Most people I know privately admit this 
same frustration. And I also sense an 
unsaid, unspeakable unhappiness with the 
state of their love affairs. This fundamental 
unhappiness of all unhappinesses, loss of 
sexual power, finds its mirror in our daily 
political reality: watching fascism reclaim 
"our country's manhood." 

As Med-o points out, we are all 
disturbed sexually. Girls are raped by their 
fathers one in four times. Boys are 
routinely circumcised on a mass scale. The 
real basis for the subjective misery and 
isolation we all feel is to be found in our 
brutalized organs of love. Not only were 
most of us treated to a cold tit, but we 
learned to suck it with relish. 

The inability to love cuts through every 
level of public and private life. Love- 
starved people begin to "numb out" in a 
variety of ways. We simply cannot tolerate 
the feeling of tension between our desires 
and our real situations. We take drugs, 
enter political groups, obey orders. We are 
neurotic because we do not want to feel 
what is happening to us. My penis is 
scarred, I carry my shield, I fear excitation, 
it weakens my defenses. 

Whether we are in a couple relationship, 
a menage a trois, a promiscuous lifestyle or 
whatever, most of us will admit a private 



Can You Recognize A TERRORIST? 

Do You Know The Difference Between: 




A Terrorist, 

and... 
A Freedom-Fighter? 





Hostages, 

and... 
Political Prisoners? 






Bombing An Embassy, 

and... 

Mining A 
Foreign Harbor? 



Nationalist Fanatics, 
and... 
Patriotic Citizens? 





:•:•:■:• 



For More Information, Contact the Terrorist Hotline (415) 986-0145 



dissatisfaction with our level of contact 
with our lovers and the world. This is 
symptomatic of real fear of loving and 
being loved, which has a direct relationship 
with our inability to self-manage our lives. 
We become rigid, dogmatic, and unable to 
swim freely in the ocean of life. We spend 
enormous amounts of time and energy on 
neurotic conflicts within ourselves and 
have' no energy to build a better place to 



live in. Then we see the authoritarian social 
structure as something alien to us, as if it 
didn't mirror perfectly our own authori- 
tarian character structures. Our inability to 
make contact with our lovers finds its 
perfection in our inability to unite as 
workers. 

"Toilet training runs deep," a friend of 
mine said. 

J.M. -Oakland, CA 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



Dear PW. 

1 just received PW «14 and enjoyed 
reading it especially "A Day In The Life of 
Emplo\ ee 85292. 

1 have been unemployed since March of 
this year, a victim of the declining 
"computer technology" industry in NYC. I 
was laid-off twice this year by companies 
unable to hack it in The Big Apple. One of 
these was a poorly funded developer of a 
special effects generator One day the 
owner tells me that I'll be working for the 
duration of my project, the next das bis 
crony lavs me off. The other company was 
the educational superstar, Sesame Street 1 
worked there for over a year developing an 
educational game: non-competitive, non 
violent, non-sexist, non-fun. It was how- 
ever a programmers' paradise; surrounded 
by interesting non programmers, friendly 
managers and a budget to buy experi- 
mental hardware. But then no one could 
foresee the consumer flocking to buy VCRs 



in preference to a Commodore 64 and the 
last of us were given notice (not before 
most of the experimental equipment was 
taken; vultures from other departments, 
smelling blood, descended on our offices). 
This was the conclusion to a regular series 
..I layoffs and corporate re orgs that had 
begun a month after 1 started working 
there over a year ago. However to keep 
their conscience clear and public image 
unblemished a generous severance pack- 
age is given to each laid-off employee. In 
lacl no matter how bad things got around 
i he office no one quit, in the hope of 
getting laid off. 

\i an\ rate enclosed is the most recent 
,ssue ol Silicon Daze [a nice underground 
zinc I r„m SYC 365 Adelphi St #2, 
lirooklyn .VI' U23H] 

P.K.-Brooklvn 



Hello again. 

The S.H.I. T. test [printed on this page] 



is from a recently formed faggot affinity 
group, made for Boston's Lesbian and Gay 
Pride march. The background includes the 
Department of Social Services, the ever so- 
liberal governor, and the Massachusetts 
legislature deciding that only "traditional 
families" are appropriate homes for foster 
and adoptive kids. It started out as 
unadulterated homophobia, and has turned 
into fairly out-and-out slams against single 
and working mothers. Further background 
includes a plea on the part of Pride 
Celebrations, Inc., that we queers be 
aware of our "image" in the upcoming 
march — oops, parade. If spending hour 
upon hour over my sewing machine for a 
demure little pink and lace number isn't 
being aware of my image I'd like to know 
what is, but they tell me that's not what 
was intended. 

I left issue 13 at the laundromat, could 
you please send me another? 

Love, 
R.W.- Boston 



had enough SHIT?- 



Important: Use only number 69 lead pencil. Fill the squares completely. Do not mark more than one answer. 
You will be penalized for unanswered questions or correct party lines Fill in birthdate. social security 
number, federal homosexual identity number, and sun sign in the spaces provided. Be prepared to present 
three photo IDs; out-of-state licenses are not valid. No open-toe shoes. No jeans. Must be over 21 to enter. 
Void yourself where prohibited by law. 



/ 



THE STATE'S HOMOSEXUAL INQUISITION TEST 



1. The traditional family consists of: 

□ a) husband, wife, child and divorce 

attorney 

□ b) a talking refrigerator, a microwave 

oven, and a vegomatic 

□ c) two fags 

D d) one fag and a bottle of poppers 



2. D.S.S. is an abbreviation for: 

□ a) Disruptive Social Services 

□ b) Desperately Seeking Susan 

□ c) Dukakis' Standards Suck 

□ d) Dyke Sexual Superiority 



I 



HOMO ID 




3. The most important components of good 
parenting are: 

□ a) pantyhose and stiletto heels 

□ b) Cabbage Patch dolls and a big 

backyard « 

□ c) dykes and fags | 

□ d) Barbie and Ken 



I 



4. A man is abnormal if: 

U a) his lipstick and fingernail polish clash 

□ b) he smokes while he's in the shower 

□ c) he takes up less than three feet of 

space around him when he walks 
down the street 

□ d) he has the words "fuchsia" and 

"beaded curtains" in his vocabulary 



I 



I 



5 A woman is abnormal if: 
] a) she owns a hammer 

b) she is not pregnant 

c) she wins an argument with a man 

(.1) she can't clean the house and cook 
the dinner after work before she 
helps the kids with their homework, 
bathes them and puts them to bed so 
thai her husband can have a little 
peace and quiet after a long, hard 
day 

6. A healthy family environment would 

encourage kids to: 
□ a) eat their vegetables 
LJ b) learn their lessons good 
D c) ask Beth 
U d) respect both of their mothers equally 



test administered by 
C.R.A.P. Testing Service 

Committee to Re-establish Absolute Patriarchy 

GCN Box U.F.C. ; 167 Tremont St. ; Boston, MA 02111 

Tests must be returned with financial contributions! 



xxxxyxxxxA/ 



we have too 



UNITED FRUIT COMPANY 

a bunch of radical gay men 
working to reinfuse the gay/lesbian movement with the spirit and 
militancy of its origins as part of a broad-based progressive move- 
ment We hope to combat D.S.S., Reaganism, South Africa, the war 
in Central America, Coors Beer (we could go on and on . ..) with 
inspiration, creativity, and a sense of humor. Contact us at the 
abo\ e address. 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



Skeleton-a ballad 





Skeleton in baggy red drawstring pants 
walking down the Ave 
no shirt 

drawstring tight around hip bon 
Skeleton walks up to young businessman 
at bus stop 
(jacket off, sleeves rolled up hairy forearms) 
pats his finger phalanges 
on 50% polyester shoulder 
says 

"Hove you". 
Up the Ave 

toe phalanges lightly scrape calcium 

on the concrete 

turns in the glass doors 

the head receptionist 
she's the "office squeeze" — 
her and the vice-prez are squeezing more 
out of each other 

than her words-per-minute would warrant — 
his sockets swallow her brown eyes 
as he pronounces 

"I love you". 
At the corner 

bus exhaust goes right through him 

but no lungs for cancer 
the wind goes right through him 
but he's not cold — 
he's hungry 

(and not much time to eat) 
— Into McCarcass 

no red meat though 

orders a fishburger First bite 

— squirt 
tartar sauce drips down his ribs. 
Staring at his thin reflection 

in the window as he leaves 
thinking 

"what would my face look like — if 1 had one?" 
"thick or thin lips — if I had any?" 

— sudden skateboard whizzes by. skeleton bends at the knees 
slightly and hops on, whoah! this the way to bang down that 
torturous trail into hell! this the way to skid down the banks 
of that grey smoldering river. This the way to — whoah! — rips past 
a cash machine, some winter clearance sales, a barber shop, 
used record store, a store specializing in contraceptives right 
next to a funeral home. 2 Japanese restaurants an Irish bar and a 
taqueria, a man on the post office steps answering philosophical 
questions for a quarter and a thin blind woman behind a guitar 
singing love songs to the clouds, everybody's got a purchase in 
one hand and some change in the other, another cash machine a 
white-haired lady pulling out two $20 bills, spray-painted on the 
wall next to her — "Ejaculate The State!", the tattoo parlor where 
last week skeleton had etched into his radius and ulna tiny letters 
that when he turn his wrist in, the bones'cross and the words 
touch, like a kiss: "I love***you".... 





down down down, down down... 

down down down... 
....now arriving on the edge 
of the industrial zone 

all the buildings square 
fish canneries 
experimental stations 
the sun 

shorting out at the horizon 
like a bad connection 
yellow lights 

in the big parking lot 
flicker on. 
Skeleton back on solid ground 

but not for long — 
starts climbing up that stack over there 

to the top. 
Hard not to get feet 

stuck in crevices oops — 
step lightly don't break anything oops- 
snaps like kindling. 
Finds his spot 

neatly folds himself up twice 
like all the rest of 'em 
neatly 

tailbone sittin' on heelbone 
skull bowed down to kneecap 
kneecap in the jaw 
rows of kneecaps 
rows of white domes empty gaze... 
...occipital... parietal... frontal... ethmoid. 

like continents 
like memories 
like cathedrals 

like upside-down cereal bowls 

in the dish drain! 







ws of white domes empty gaze.. 

remember?... you were there once... 

up on top 

of the tall stack 

of skeletons. 



Harvey Stein 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 




In the last Processed World, several staffers took a shot at answering some readers' questions 
about our future visions and our preferences for organizational models. In this issue we are continuing 
the form of a collective editorial, and this time our subject is the omnipresent fear of AIDS -an issue 
particularly compelling in our city of San Francisco 



QUARANTINE CORNER 




■■They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and 
formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything 
like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences 
the exchange of views- They fancied themselves pee and no one 
will ever be free so long as there are pestilences. " 

— The Plague, Albert Camus 



■■Around the country, gay establishments or those that attract or 
hire many gays report business is falling. 

-The Wall Street Journal, 10/10/85 



^r 



MAXINEHOLZ 



Fear of AIDS has become deeply em- 
bedded in the American psyche. In the 
popular consciousness, AIDS is compar- 
able to the Bubonic Plague that wiped out 
from Vi to Vi of the European population 
during the Middle Ages. The dread of 
AIDS takes many forms. It ranges from the 
organized militance of parents concerned 
for the welfare of their children, to the 
ubiquitous office joke accompanied by 
nervous laughter. (Jokes are always a ther- 
mometer of popular uneasiness.) Does the 
anxiety around AIDS simply reflect the 
healthy concern for a devastating disease 
with unknown causes, or is it some sort of 
mass neurosis? 

Let's put this danger into perspective. 
The chances of catching AIDS by casual 
contact are statistically infinitessimal com- 
pared with the chances, say of a frequent 
flyer getting killed in an airplane accident, 
not to speak of the chance of anyone 
getting killed driving on the freeway. If the 
problem was really simply a matter of 
possibility of severe impairment of facul- 
ties or death, then why aren't people up in 
arms about all these other things? The 
harmful effects of radioactive waste or 
toxic dumps on our health are far more 
certain and scientifically understood than 
the effects of sharing a meal with someone 
with AIDS. 

Those who advocate extreme precaution 
against catching AIDS (quarantines of 
victims, screening for AIDS virus at 
workplaces) must recognize that they are 
tailing for a degree of surveillance and 



10 



social control that would lead to unpre- 
cedented invasions of privacy. The price 
would be very high, not only for individual 
victims or carriers of AIDS and high-risk 
groups, but for the society as a whole, 
because everyone is guilty (or infected) 
until proven innocent (or "clean"). 

Why is the militance around AIDS so 
exaggerated? The main difference between 
AIDS and other social maladies is that 
AIDS is known to be transmissable via 
intimate contact with another infected 
human being. Actually, the cause of 
environmental pollution, industrial acci- 
dents, etc., is ultimately human activity, 
just as AIDS is a result of human activity of 
a specific type. 

But unlike the former, which appear as 
unfortunate side effects of apparently 
immutable production processes, AIDS 
immediately evokes the murky world of 
lustful physical contact between sensuate 
bodies It raises questions of personal and 
sexual "hygiene," arousing the traditional 
American puritanical horror of bodih 
secretions For many, AIDS isn't just a 
punishment for homosexuality, but for 
sexual pleasure for its own sake. 

Fear of AIDS is the fear of others, the 
fear of being invaded by another whom one 
is aware of as a lustful animal, the fear of 
someone else's sins rubbing off on you 

In this way, AIDS dread contributes to a 
general climate of terror and isolation, of 
distrust for one's neighbor (who might 
have AIDS, just as he might be a child 
molestor or a rapist). And of course, AIDS 
is directly linked to more traditional 
militant "hysterias"— against promiscu- 
ity, homosexuality and anal sex, prosti- 
(ution, drugs and pornography. The 



—¥r- 



obsessions with AIDS dovetails nicely with 
the general climate of moral crusading. 

And so the cycle viciously closes in on 
itself. The anxiety of losing control leads to 
a paradoxical desire for more order and 
soual control— not to gam meaning and 
coherence in our social lives, but to lessen 
the influence of the potentially harmful 
Other. The result is the opposite: the more 
we give in to our helplessness and our 
desires for some authority to solve our 
problems, the more we relinquish our 
capacity for freedom and action. 

Concern and collective action around 
AIDS has provided support for victims of 
the disease and their loved ones, and 
pressured the authorities to conduct rele- 
vant research. But as part of a campaign of 
fear and ostracization, anti-AIDS militance 
leads to isolation, paranoia, a paralyzing 
fear of others, and a strengthening of 
authoritarian tendencies within our societ) 
and within ourselves. 



PAX A LOURDE 



I'm in a bad mood. 1 come out of the 
Metro station and hear someone exhorting 
"You don'i «ani to catch AIDS, do you'" 

Aggressive, hoarse, mean— "You don t 
want to catch AIDS, do you?" 

1 see a woman and a man passing out a 
kallei headlined, Spread Panic, Not 
AIDS 

Nauseous with rage, I think, "Be cool, 
you don't know who you're dealing with. 
|usi calmly take a leaflet and go on up to 
work." I walk up to the woman. My rage 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 



blooms. I seize her entire stack and throw it 
to the paV?ment. 

"Hey pal," she shouts. 

The guy yells, "That man has AIDS." 

The leaflet, put out by a fascist group 
(and we're not just whistling Deutschland 
Uber Alles) has a vicious agenda: compul- 
sory blood tests for all food handlers, 
service workers, school teachers; intensive 
research institutes where AIDS patients 
can be brought to be treated in isolation; 
admittance to these institutions would at 
first be voluntary, until "public health 
officials determine that more compulsory 
quarantine measures are needed" (would a 
concentration camp by any other name 
smell so rank?). 

I need to remind myself that I'm not in 
high school anymore. I won't, don't stand 
for the physical and psychic beatings that 
come from being a faggot in straight 
society. I have been attacked, called 
unclean, diseased, socially unacceptable. 
But now I have a better self image, friends 
I can talk to, community resources to 
mobilize. I start with the people in the 
office. 

Jane arrives shortly after me. Kind- 
hearted, emotionally open Jane. "Did you 
see those leaflets?" 

"Oh, I never take leaflets. But I did see 
those all over the sidewalk. Those people 
sure are messy. You know what I think? I 
think we're all going to catch it. The virus 
is mutating you know. Pretty soon it's 
going to be airborne, just like the common 
cold. And that guy they elected, what's his 
name, Ray-gun [contempt in her voice] 
he's just not putting enough money into 
research." 

However, Jane remains compassionate. 
A coworker of her lover's has AIDS. His 
company, a savings and loan bank, has 
been having special AIDS awareness 
workshops for its employees. At the work- 
shops, doctors assure that the disease is 
not contagious as well as going over how to 
have low-risk sex. Still, the coworker's 
boss is 'freaked out' and harasses him with 
every trick in the Supervisor's Manual for 
Mental Cruelty. Jane's lover is doing what 
he can to help the coworker — confronting 
the supervisor directly, complaining to the 
supervisor's boss, being an emotionally 
supportive friend to the sufferer. Jane 
staunchly feels that the supervisor is 
malevolent, her lover correct, the company 
enlightened. But she continues to think, no 
matter what she is told about the statistical 
improbability, that the virus is about to 
break out and become dangerously con- 
tagious. 

My identity is besieged. I remember the 
week before at a demonstration at a 
building for a company that ships military 
supplies to El Salvador. In a moment* of 
outrage I spit on the windows and say, 
"Here, have some of my AIDS." I am 
stunned at this expression of self-hatred 
and drift off, depressed. I realize the 



hatred, mistrust, fear in me. Who should I 
be angry at, who should I blame? 

At a Processed World meeting, some- 
body spouts the idea that perhaps AIDS 
hysteria has an element of common sense. 
People are right to mistrust the medical 
authorities — "Much as I want to believe 
them on the AIDS issue, why should I trust 
the same public health officials who tell me 
it's OK to go back into a PCB-soaked 
building?" I think about this question... 

Scientific findings are not objective; 
scientific 'fact' always contains a degree of 
interpretation influenced by politics, by 
attitudes towards nature and the body, by 
all kinds of quirks. The gay community has 
fought the scientific and medical establish- 
ment in an unprecedented way. We've 
analyzed the research, both as lay people 
and as professionals; we've demanded 
more research money; we've insisted on 
scientific cooperation rather than competi- 
tion; we've forced policy makers to pay 
attention to the more nearly true than what 
is politically or financially expedient. If 
workers were organized in similar ways to 
independently research and contest the 
official dictum of the public health depart- 
ment, we might see different inter- 
pretations of what constitutes a safe work- 
place. 

Despite the horror of an unchecked AIDS 
epidemic, there are some real and potential 
silver linings: 

• Other common diseases that are 
distinctly modern — cancers, strange aller- 
gies — originate in breakdown of the 
immune system. If positively handled, 
AIDS research, and public response to that 
research, could lead to an expanded aware- 
ness of the cause of such breakdowns, 
including the role of environmental ha- 
zards, mental stress, physical overexer- 
tion, depleted nutrition. 

• The gay community's internal res- 
ponse to the crisis has been an amazing 
example of mutual aid. Community funded 
hospice programs provide emotional and 
practical support for the dying. Gay writers 
have produced a body of sustaining fiction, 
poetry, drama. We have produced fund- 
raising benefits to suit every range of 
cultural affinity and bankbook, from grand 
nights at the opera to funky little Paul 
Goodman study groups. And what is also 
important and touching, we are kinder, 
more tender with each other. The 
experience of death coming quickly and 
early to our friends, acquaintances, public 
figures make us realize how precious each 
other's lives really are, how petty are many 
of the differences... 

I never was able to imagine myself 
having AIDS. Then one night I dream. I am 
marked by Kaposi's Sarcoma, a skin cancer 
associated with AIDS. I arise from my sick 
bed and go out into the street. I force 
the world to confront my experience, my 
identity. Frankly, I see people shrinking 
away in terror. Frankly, I am terrified by 



myself. I wake up in fright, but I soon 
realize I have been to that worst place. I 
can now venture back to resolution. 



ANA LOGUE 



Junkies in a shooting gallery partake of 
pleasure or gain relief from a shared 
needle. Six years later, a child is refused 
entry to a school on the grounds that the 
disease she was born with is not curable, 
even though there is no reason to believe 
her condition is casually contagious. Her 
case, and those of other children like her, 
becomes an international cause celebre, 
even the president is expected to have an 
opinion on it. 

Years from now high school and college 
students will write papers on children with 
AIDS comparing their case to the intern- 
ment of the Japanese or the Dreyfus affair. 
The titles will read: "Hysteria and Social 
Policy," "Isolation vs. Contamination," or 
"Howard Hughes, Model American." 

If one could only get AIDS by sharing a 
needle or as a foetus in an infected womb, I 
do not believe the disease would capture 
the world's attention, no matter how many 
people died. Nor would it probably catch 
the excitement of the medical community. 

Medical care and research are pretty 
much up for grabs in our free economy, 
with the diseases of the rich and powerful 
receiving more attention and money than 
those of the poor and powerless. Thus, the 
U.S. has practically staked its national 
honor on finding cures for heart disease 
and cancer, which attack the rich as well as 
the poor, while taking a much more casual 
approach to the problems of inadequate 
prenatal care, malnutrition, and occupa- 
tional diseases. AIDS as a disease of 
intravenous drug users and their children 
would probably receive as high a priority as 
the diseases of migrant farm workers 
poisoned by pesticides. 

But, as we all know, AIDS is also spread 
through sexual contact, and it is especially 
prevalent in the gay community, where, 
rumor has it, there is an awful lot of sex 
going on. ("Ex Straight Claims, i Get Laid 
a Lot More as a Gay!' " Did I just imagine 
this headline, or did I read it in the 
Enquirer?) But thanks to the articulateness 
and political savvy of some gays, AIDS is 
getting the attention it deserves as an 
epidemic disease. Who knows how many 
lives have and will be saved just as a result 
of the public awareness efforts initiated by 
the gay press? 

Who knows how many lives have and 
will be destroyed by the irresponsible and 
sensationalist mass media? ("Movie Stars 
Refuse On Screen Kisses," "High School 
Boy Gives Sweetheart Kiss of Death," 
"AIDS Scare Cancels Prom," did I read 
these headlines of am I making them up?) 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 






11 



A kid whose mother died of AIDS and who 
will probably not live to adolescence cannot 
go to school. Some nurses refuse to care for 
patients with AIDS unless they are allowed 
to wear protective masks and gloves. 

I take my chances, ride subway trains 
and crowded buses, mingle with the 
coughing, sneezing mob. I worry about 
earthquakes and being killed or maimed in 
a car accident. I am not afraid of flying. 
When I die, I hope I leave behind 
something better than fear. 




STEVE C. 

How many people today would say that 
the job is a producer of stress? For many, 
headaches, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety 
and manifest behavioral disorders like 
alcoholism and drug abuse — and many 
forms of domestic violence — result from 
dealing with the job. Add to these maladies 
unrelieved stress and one can certainly 
understand how an immune system 
weakens. But are jobs considered as 
contributing to AIDS? 

For AIDS patients, the attitudes that 
others have regarding AIDS must influence 
their day-to-day feelings. People should 
not be led to believe that they are at fault 
for the AIDS problem. But being sensitive 
to the needs of others is not a dominant 
trait of the powers that be. Most major 
newspapers and TV networks make under- 
standing AIDS more difficult and more 
easily propagate stereotypes. Classifica- 
tion serves not only to group pathologically 
related factors, but translates psychologi- 
cal and social phenomena into superordi- 
nate causal categories of disease. 

Basing our response to AIDS on the 
information we receive from popular press, 
TV, and radio gives us a fuzzy picture of 
the problem. Embedded in messages at 
regular intervals we are told that AIDS is a 
result of deviance. It is then easy to 
generalize the form (i.e. deviance) and 
align with the communicator. Information 
that fixes the cause of AIDS in certain 
modes of behavior reinforces conservative 
messages about self and society. 

DENNIS HA YES 



The horror of contracting AIDS is upon 
us. But unless a new, casually transmitted 
strain of AIDS emerges, most of us have 
less to fear from AIDS than from AIDS 
Phobia, a pestilence of fear that has begun 
to resemble the mass psychology of segre- 
gation and internment. 

AIDS Phobia owes much to misinfor- 
mation regarding AIDS transmission. 
Researchers and doctors insist that casual 



contraction of AIDS is almost impossible, 
that for the virus to spread, an AIDS 
victim's blood, semen, or saliva must come 
into direct contact with another's blood- 
stream — e.g., like hepatitis, through a 
dirty needle, or during anal intercourse, 
through capillaries in the rectal lining. 
Statistics confirm this insistence; in fact, 
the deadly virus may no longer be 
spreading the way some fear it is. 

According to a report in Harper's (Oct. 
'85), the numbers of AIDS patients are 
doubling every year. The current number 
is about 14,000. But the numbers are 
doubling within the high risk groups (gay 
men, intravenous drug users), not among 
the general population. 

Only 6-7% of AIDS cases affect the 
"general population," and these are the 
lightning rods for AIDS Phobia. Research 
refuses to yield the AIDS transmission 
routes for these groups. But the stigmas of 
homosexuality and IV drug use mean that 
some AIDS victims are "high risks" who 
decline the association. We just don't know 
how vulnerable the rest of us are to AIDS. 

More importantly, AIDS is spreading 
mainly among those already infected but 
not yet AIDS symptomatic. AIDS symp- 
toms may surface six years after an initial 
infection. The projected yearly doubling of 
AIDS victims disproportionately includes 
those already infected — up to a million, 
says the Center for Disease Control in 
Atlanta — e.g. up to 50% of S.F.'s gay male 
population, 80% of NYC's IV drug users, 
and 60% of its gay men. This is not good 
news for gay men and IV drug users. But it 
clearly suggests the possibility of con- 
taining AIDS transmission, especially 
among low-risk groups. Yet AIDS Phobia 
fanned by a hysterical media, abounds in 
low-risk groups. 

The media's AIDS Coverage declares a 
de facto gay quarantine, a lowering of a 
homophobic society's threshold for repres- 
sive tolerance. Indeed, high-risk AIDS 
groups may soon ask sociologists to 
develop a test for AIDS Phobia, a loboto- 
mizing syndrome transmitted by passive 
eye or ear contact with AIDS-news 
headlines. 

The U.S. military already tests the blood 
it collects from its bases, presumably as a 
drug screening measure. Marines testing 
positive have already been quarantined. 
Given the unavoidability of false -\>os\i\ve 
AIDS testing, everyone should shudder at 
the prospect of AIDS-related segregation 
and detention. These things become think- 
able in an AIDS-phobic culture. 

While researchers hedge on 5-10 year 
projections for AIDS vaccines, one thing 
becomes apparent: the only way to stop 
AIDS now is to prevent it. This means, for 
starters, timely and accessible sex educa- 
tion and clean needles for IV drug users. 
The federal and most state, county and 
local authorities have sadly reached the 



reverse conclusion. 

The federal department of Health and 
Human Services cut its AIDS public 
education budget from a measly $200,000 
last year to a contemptibly small $120,000 
this year. In Los Angeles, morally outraged 
county politicians spiked a publicly-funded 
AIDS prevention pamphlet because a 
junkie could read in it how to sterilize an IV 
needle. Only in America could this problem 
occur. Canada, by contrast, makes sanitary 
needles widely available. The "morally 
objectionable" result is that the number of 
Canadian IV drug users with AIDS is very 
low. 

Perhaps the most promising prevention 
is occuring within San Francisco's gay 
community, where the rate of rectal gonor- 
rhea has dropped more than 75% in the 
last year. This is another indication that 
AIDS transmission, at least through anal 
intercourse, also may be declining. 

To the degree that it tails to sponsor 
community-controlled AIDS prevention 
education, the government chooses the 
medieval strategy of reliance on fear, a 
tactic found wanting during earlier cam- 
paigns to control syphillis and gonorrhea. 
Fear of AIDS— i.e., AIDS Phobia— is pre- 
cisely what we should be loathing, if we 
desire AIDS prevention. But AIDS Phobia 
runs deep. 

Just as AIDS compromises immunity to 
disease, it suggest our vulnerability to any 
number of catastrophes from nuclear war 
to an eviction notice. What are our 
defenses against these? AIDS reminds us 
that our defenses are fragile. It is an 
unpleasant reminder. 

As one AIDS researcher concluded "At 
some level people are associating sex with 
death." Perhaps this strikes at the lonely 
heart of AIDS Phobia. The thoroughfares 
for AIDS transmission — sex and drugs — 
run through those private joys in which we 
seek refuge from life's dangers. Without 
refuge from danger, fear is justified. AIDS 
consciousness burdens new and even long- 
standing romantic encounters with an un- 
comfortable suspicion. And with awkward 
exchanges of medical and sexual pre- 
ference histories — exchanges that share all 
the warmth and intimacy of a baggage 
inspection by a customs officer. 

Regardless of how nobly we struggle to 
be pragmatic and educational about 
preventing AIDS, the seeds of AIDS 
Phobia are sown. It poses in each of us a 
threat: the possibility that our insulation 
from fear itself is deficient. Are calming 
opinions and research about AIDS trans- 
mission, like those expressed in articles 
like this one, wrong? The government's 
record on epidemics — and its disdain for 
homosexuality and IV drug use— suggest 
we should begin to worry if and when it 
announces an AIDS vaccine. In the rush to 
take it, will we remember the carcinogenic 
polio (1960s) and Swine Flu (1970s) 
vaccines? 



12 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 





Slogans throughout the article taken from the 
Manna-Pesto of the Revolutionary Garden 
Party (Organarchist-Vangardener), illustra- 
tions by The Big Mud Duck 



ear Sirs, 

What is wrong with Asparagus Spears that would 
make them so soft and mushy after you put cheese 
sauce on them to serve for guests? 

— Complaint letter to Del Monte Corporation 

It was the closest thing to an assembly line that I had 
ever worked. The complaints were the raw material. The 
final product was soothed feelings, assurances of quality 
and care. It was the production of ideology, really. Trust in 
the system, in the humanitarianism of big companies like 
Del Monte. 

The production process? The mail would come in big 
bags early in the afternoon. Somebody would do the initial 
sort: promotional correspondence (things like people 
sending in 15 coupons for taco holders) off to the promo 
half of the office, boxes in a bin, rest of the letters to us. 
The boxes were gross. People would send back food, 
yummy things like TV dinners put back in the carton and 
mailed, worm-ridden prunes, cans of discolored Chinese 
food (love those rotting beansprouts). The food might sit 
in someone's house for a couple days then be sent through 
the U.S. Postal System where it would be thrown about, 
dropped, stamped, crushed. It would reach its destina- 
tion, only to sit in an overheated office for a week or more. 
We, the clerical workers, weren't required to open the 
boxes. The supervisors were supposed to, which was fine 
with us. The idea was probably that the supes were better 
able to deal with the health hazard of decay. Now and then 
one would go through the bin and try to stretch the 
distinction between a box and a letter, giving us the small 
boxes to be opened along with the letters. I let this slide 
just once before I began immediately and obviously 
dumping the boxes right back into the bin. 

Not that the letters were much better. People felt 
obliged to send us the sticks they almost choked on, the 
'field debris' (worms, mouse carcasses, dirt clods) they 
found in their cans, discolored, misshapen pear halves 
wrapped in baggies and made even more discolored and 
misshapen by automatic postal equipment. 

The department responded to an astounding volume of 
complaints. I was there in the slow season when we were 
handling 250-300 a day. The letters would be opened, date 
stamped, read, and then coded. In coding, we would write 
down Del Monte's standard name for the product, the can 
code, and a code for the complaint. The can codes were an 
issue. The label asked that customers include the letters 
and number found on the bottom of the can when writing 
about problems. Encapsulated in that nine-unit alpha- 
numeric code was the date and location of the packaging. 
Needless to say, consumers were very interested in 
cracking the code. People would want to know the age of 
some cans they had just bought at a warehouse sale ui had 
found at the back of Grandma's shelf. No help from Del 
Monte. 

The information from the coding would be entered into 
a computer. The computer would (1) compile management 
reports on all this information and (2) spit out a personable 
letter, supposedly from the head of the department but in 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



13 



actuality signed by anybody, expressing 
grave personal concern for the unfortu- 
nate experience and assuring intensive 
quality control Coupons good for the 
pure hase of more Del Monte products 
would be offered as compensation. 
I hire was a bi/arre schema for deter- 
mining how much compensation the 
customer would receive. For a 50 cent 
i in ofpeaches with a worm in it, the cus- 
tomer would get a $1 coupon if she not- 
iced the worm upon opening the can. If 
she dumped the peaches into a pot and 
saw the worm, she would get $2. If the 
peaches reached the table, $4 If the 
wormy peach was dished out onto a 
plate, $6. If somebody bit Mr. Worm in 
hall she would get the grand prize of $8 
worth of coupons For choking, if done 
by an adult, $3- if by a child, $5. 

When customers wanted an expla- 
nation, they usually got it — but the 
explanations were disingenuous We 
had form letters detailing the dangers of 
old, rusty, bent cans. (Surprise! Don't 
eat tood from cans that are leaking and 
smell funny.) Another letter assured that 
canned fruits and vegetables were just 
as nutritious as fresh — after, of course, 
chemicalized vitamins and minerals 
were added back in to substitute for 
those killed in the preserving process. 
The supervisors were trained to identify 



( hemi< al compounds or different spe< ies 
ol insects that might be found in some- 
one's package When the supes were 
slumped, they sent it off to the lab who 
could do chemical analyses or identify, 
say, a found bolt as coming from the 
drying machine for raisins. If a customer 
was really hurt, the complaint went to 
Legal so that they could fast-talk her into 
signing releases in exchange for mini- 
mal, but quick, reimbursement. 

The response would be sent and the 
complaint would be filed along with any 
materials that accompanied it. 
Squashed-up pears, rotting worms and 
stale breakfast pastries would be stuck in 
the tiling cabinet The office reeked — 
and this was in the winter. I understand 
that in summer the place stinks to high 
heaven 

After working in the office a while, 
most of the workers found themselves 
avoiding canned and frozen foods — es- 
pecially the 'problem products' like 
cream corn or canned salsa (I myselt 
opened at least six letters relating how 
palls were cast on New Years Eve parties 
when someone fished up broken glass on 
their tortilla chip ) Some workers frankly 
said they were revolted by the stuff 
Some asserted that fresh vegetables 
were healthier others commented that 



must ol the letters were from out of 
state, in California, though, we have a 
completely different wa> of eating (the 
snooty way out) Whatever the reason, 
we were all alienated from seeing the 
problems of the corresponding con- 
Su'inpfs a our problem Too. We knev»/ 
better than to buy the stuff in the first 
place 

Stale loke 

I liked working in this uliiu 
week At first, the letters were mleres 
ting, tunny documents Instead ol being 
grossed out, unable to eat, I found 
myself obsessed with food Reading 
about a tree/er burnt chicken pol pie 
filled with artitic ially flavored cornstan h 
would make me think ol the wondei s oi I 
chicken pot pie clone right — a butter 
crust tilled with chunks of slewed 
chi< ken and bab\ carrots in a light cream 
sauce Returned cartons ol Hawaiian 
Punch that looked and smellecl like anti- 
freeze made me thirsty for iresh truil 
juices, for bittersweet carrot juice 
cloudy organi< apple c ider, bottled Napa 
Valle) wine grape juice Letter after 
i^-M-er about shoddy canned vegetables 
nngcte '"'.' hungry Tor Cri-Sp s,ree»i be<*OS 
cooked in butter, garlic and Fresh 
Oregano from m\ garden swiss chard 



The Doll with the Soft Vinyl Head and the Naugahyde Heart! 



Only 
$1.36/hr.! 




ibbage Patch Workers come with 
ih ii own Green Card! 

bellybulton and signature birthmark 
with dimpled knees, blistered feet 
and calluses. 

Doll SolU Separately 

Field tools not included 



Turn YOUR Workplace into a 
Warm, Cuddly Environment! 




PROCESSED WORLD #15 



with an olive oil and white vinegar 
dressing and lots of freshly ground black 
pepper, or artichokes served with home- 
made mayonnaise... 

But the amusement and heightened 
sensuality soon wore off. I became de- 
pressed. There were sad things, infuria- 
ting things, going on in these letters. 

What were the letters saying? To 
paraphrase and simplify an idea deve- 
loped by Claude Levi-Strauss — human- 
kind as biological beings stand midway 
between nature and culture. Food is our 
primary link both to nature and to each 
other Our system for obtaining and pre- 
paring food indicates both our relation- 
ship to nature and the structure of our 
society. 

Take this letter: 

Dear Sir: 

Last night my husband came in from 
work late so I fixed him a "Del Monte 
Tried Chicken Dinner. " He found a hair 
in the broccoli. It has always made 
him sick to find a hair in anything he 
eats. So that was my wasted money, 
time, and a dinner 

He is on his lunch hour now. So I fixed 
him a Salisbury Steak Dinner. I'd been 
busy with my daughter and I really 
didn't expect him home because of the 
terrible weather. When he started to eat, 
he found a very long hair in his steak 
gravy. Well he was going to eat it, and 
ate the steak, but found another hair in 
the au gratin potatoes... 

Since this has happened, I'm going to 
buy Morton dinners, again.* 

The classic working-class family. The 
husband works at some low level job 
where it's normal to go home for lunch. 
He is the breadwinner, the king of the 
castle. And out of utter gratitude for her 
state of dependency, the wife is expected 
to be his personal servant, preparing all 
his tood on demand. Bad enough. But 
what about TV dinners? The foodstuff is 
of poor quality, the portions meager. An 
analysis would reveal high salt content 
(just the thing for that high blood 
pressure) and destroyed nutrients from 
the cooking-freezing-baking cycle (three, 
three, three processes in one!). And let's 
not forget the various unnecessary and 
potentially carcinogenic chemicals used 
to color, thicken, flavor, emulsify, 
leaven, preserve. 

Nobody likes to find hair in their food, 
but why should it be so unexpected? To 
be sure, all kinds of disgusting things 
happen in food p rocessing plants. Field 

* Morton is made by Del Monte In fact, the 
Del Monle frozen foods are supposed to be 
top of the line relative to Morton. So it won't 
do this consumer any good to switch. 



rats go into catsup. Workers drop rubber 
gloves, hair nets and chewing gum into 
vats. A friend of mine worked in a 
Watsonville brussel sprouts factory 
where a junkie friend of hers barfed on 
the belt. My friend watched in smug 
revulsion as the vomit-sauced cab- 
bagettes were packaged and frozen. 
(Aren't these stories oddly fascinating?) 

The husband's horror of the hairs is 
embedded in the modern food distribu- 
tion system. Until recently, meals were 
prepared in small kitchens by people 
intimately associated in daily life. If you 
found a hair in your food, it was Cousin 
Bette's, or maybe the landlady's. A hair 
in a TV dinner, on the other hand, is an 
anonymous yet intimate intrusion. It 
provokes a correspondingly vague-yet- 
intense dread of contamination. 

This separation from the source of 
tood and its natural qualities can take on 
absurd distances, as in the following 
letter: 

/ recently purchased your product Del 
Monte "PITTED PRUNES." While 
chewing one of the pitted prunes, much 
to my horror, I bit down upon a pit — you 
will find this pit attached plus the 
purchase wrapper. 

This pit incident has caused damage to 
my tooth [which is capped]. I cannot 
pi edict the extent of damage until I see 
my dentist, however, when the pit made 
contact with my tooth, I heard a loud 
crack" and I now find the area to be 
very sensitive. 

As you can well imagine I am in great 
distress and would appreciate hearing 



from you as soon as possible. 

I cannot afford dentistry as I am 
unemployed. 

The food companies can't even leave 
untouched the most ostensibly 'natural' 
foods. There are ways to eat prunes and 
avoid the pits — you can hold the prune 
and just bite around the pit, or gingerly 
puncture the end of the prune and suck 
the pit out, or stick the whole prune in 
your mouth and chew around the sides of 
the pit with your molars. If you expect to 
find the pit anyway, you can deal with it. 
I read many other letters where people 
were similarly 'horrified,' 'shocked,' or 
'appalled' to find a naturally-occuring 
part in their food. And because they 
really weren't expecting it, they often 
hurt themselves when they choked on a 
bean or grape stem, cut their cheek on a 
chicken bone, or bit into a prune pit. 

We need to know what to expect from 
food so that we don't find ourselves 
poisoned, down with case of the runs, or 
unexpectedly drugged (what delicious 
mushrooms!). But we also desire 
variety, both for nutritional satisfaction 
and sensual interest. The desire for 
variety could be an evolutionary adapta- 
tion, enabling humans to obtain the 
nutrition they need in a range of environ- 
ments. Tribal people, except in times of 
extreme shortage, usually have a varied 
diet obtained from small-scale agricul- 
ture, hunting, and gathering. One tribe 
in the Philippines can identify and use 
1,600 different plants. Similarly, peasant 
cultures, though usually burdened by 
landlords, banks and profiteering mid- 




Kitchen Motors Provide 
Wholesome Family Entertainment! 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



15 



dlemen, diversify their diet by raising 
vegetables appropriate to the season, 
gathering herbs, greens, berries and 
nuts in the wild, and hunting and 
trapping. The people in outlying towns 
and cities benefit from their resource- 
fulness—witness a European or Chinese 
town on market day. 

The food corporations flatten diver- 
sity. Choice and variety exist as an array 
of commodities. What we find at super- 
markets is not real variety; the same 
things in different packaging take up 
large amounts of 'shelf space.' A stan- 
dard American 'junk food' item like 
chocolate wafers with 'creme' centers is 
offered in the name brand form (Oreos), 
the competitive brand form CHydrox) and 
the 'economy' house brand form (Lady 
Lee, Bonnie Hubbard, Frau Sicheweg, 
etc.). In the produce section, you can buy 
the standard tomato, the standard 
zucchini, the standard peach. But a 
perusal of any seed or fruit tree catalog 
is a revelation. Every 'basic' fruit or 
vegetable exists in several forms, each 
varying in taste, texture and appear- 
ance. Unless you have your own garden, 
it's impossible to obtain the variety our 
agricultural heritage has to offer. 

The Del Monte letters revealed a great 
deal of atomized, isolated food consump- 
tion. Particulary sad were the old people 
who would write about how they lived on 
TV dinners. Since they ate by them- 
selves, they found the portions just 
right, with no waste or leftovers, and the 
dinners were easy to prepare. But TV 
dinners are not a healthy diet, especially 
for older people needing to restrict their 
consumption of salt, fat, and refined 
carbohydrates. These atomized meal 
preparations reveal the sort of com- 
munity that people in our society age 
into— none. 

True, at least a third of the letters 
claimed a "guest" or "company" was 
present when food was found to be 
defective. Like the asparagus letter at 
the beginning of this article. Or this one: 








Freeze The Zukes' 



Del Monte 
Consumer Affairs: 
Katherine M. Randle: 

Dear Ms. Randle: 

My husband and I have just returned 
from a vacation and upon my return I 
found your letter of Jan. 10th, 1985 
awaiting me. 

I was sick to my stomach for 3 days on 
my vacation, due solely to the memory of 
my opening of the Del Monte can of 
Yellowstone or Freestone Yellow Peaches, 
taking a quick sip of the usually delicious 
syrup, and seeing this horrible cock-roach, 
floating up to me right under my eyes. The 
mere thought of it still sickens me. I very 
easily could have swallowed some remote 
part of the roach or even its feces. I tasted 
the syrup. I did not eat any part of the 
peaches. 

Your letter explains in detail the pro- 
cedure you take, and I quote, "You take 
particular care that the product is 
wholesome and free of any foreign 
matter" unquote. How then can you 
explain the presence of this ugly horribly 
roach floating in the juice, floating up to 
me before my eyes? 

I have the roach itself frozen in a 
Baggie, the can with the number stamped 
intact on the bottom of the can in my 
freezer, as per instructions from the 
gentleman with whom I spoke at the State 
Food and Drug Administration. I would 
very much like to get the filthy thing out of 
my freezer. 

I was ill for 3 days after the incident, 
wholly due to the fact of remembering the 
roach. My stomach was truly upset. Nice 
way to start a vacation! On the 5th day we 
took a tour in Honolulu to the Dole 
pineapple fields and saw the sign of the 
Del Monte fields, and the mere sign "Del 
Monte" conjured up my memory again of 
the roach. I will never again be able to 
enjoy the delicious taste of a cold, juicy 
freestone peach from any can, from any 
brand again. This thought alone makes me 
very very angry. So, Ms. Randle, I'm 
sorry to inform you that 3-$1 .00 coupons is 
not going to compensate me for the misery 
I encountered on my vacation and the 
future sacrifice of any enjoyment I would 
derive from eatmg a dish of nice canned 
peaches. 

I'm returning your 3-$1.00 coupons and 
hopefully some remuneration in accord 
with the misery I endured will be forth- 
coming. If not I shall take the horrible 
cock-roach frozen and the can and consult 
my attorney. 

I thoroughly dislike writing a letter like 
this Ms. Randle, I know you are just doing 
your job, but I have no alternative. 
Sincerely, 
Mrs. Dor Man 
La Mesa, Calif. 



...Last evening I had guests for 
dinner. I was serving the fruit cocktail as 
g "";» m an appetizer when one of my guests 
J vS found this bit of extra on his spoon [a 
4 y f >/ grape stem]. Needless to say, I was very 
embarrassed. .. 

But having guests was such a common 
claim that I suspect it often wasn't true. 
People didn't feel confident in asserting 
complaints on their own behalf. They 
needed a witness, imaginary or other- 
wise. Somehow, they were embarrassed 
about eating alone. 

Meal sharing is a way of experiencing 
human connectedness — care, equality 
friendship. From this point of view, the 
nuclear family dependent on corporate 
merchandise is clearly a failure. Inside 
it, people are bored, tense, harrassed — 
like the harried housewife with her Steak 
Dinner. Outside, they are alone. The 
most fundamental human collective 
activity, meal preparation and consump- 
tion, is done in solitude, even after the 
preparation becomes strenuous and the 
consumption delicate, as it is for the 
elderly. In many suburban families, it is 
common for people regularly to eat their 
dinners while watching separate TV's, 
unless they go out together to eat. 



The Price of Grain and the Price of Blood 

The Third World is starving. Some 
would claim that it is wrong to be con- 
cerned with alienation and sensual 
deprivation in the U.S. when many 
people can't even get a minimal daily 
serving of rice and beans. Such an 
attitude fails to see the interrelatedness 
of the problems, how the same institu- 
tions are responsible for both. It also 
misses the possibility for a politics 
rooted in our daily life, leaving us power- 
less to do anything except donate money 
to this or that relief agency. 

In Food First by Francis Moore Lappe 
and Joseph Collins, you can look up Del 
Monte in the index, and then go down 




"Cash Crops Will 
Solve World Hunger" 



16 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



with an olive oil and white vinegar 
dressing and lots of freshly ground black 
pepper, or artichokes served with home- 
made mayonnaise... 

But the amusement and heightened 
sensuality soon wore off. I became de- 
pressed. There were sad things, infuria- 
ting things, going on in these letters. 

What were the letters saying? To 
paraphrase and simplify an idea deve- 
loped by Claude Levi-Strauss — human- 
kind as biological beings stand midway 
between nature and culture. Food is our 
primary link both to nature and to each 
other. Our system for obtaining and pre- 
paring food indicates both our relation- 
ship to nature and the structure of our 
society 

Take this letter: 
Dear Sir: 

Last night my husband came in from 
work late so I fixed him a "Del Monte 
I ried Chicken Dinner. " He found a hair 
in the broccoli. It has always made 
him sick to find a hair in anything he 
eats. So that was my wasted money, 
tune, and a dinner. 

He is on his lunch hour now. So I fixed 
him a Salisbury Steak Dinner. I'd been 
busy with my daughter and I really 
didn't expect him home because of the 
terrible weather. When he started to eat, 
he found a very long hair in his steak 
gravy. Well he was going to eat it, and 
ate the steak, but found another hair in 
the au gratin potatoes... 

Since this has happened, I'm going to 
buy Morton dinners, again. * 

The classic working-class family. The 
husband works at some low level job 
where it's normal to go home for lunch. 
He is the breadwinner, the king of the 
castle. And out of utter gratitude for her 
state of dependency, the wife is expected 
to be his personal servant, preparing all 
his food on demand. Bad enough. But 
what about TV dinners? The foodstuff is 
of poor quality, the portions meager. An 
analysis would reveal high salt content 
(just the thing for that high blood 
pressure) and destroyed nutrients from 
the cooking-freezing-baking cycle (three, 
three, three processes in one!). And let's 
not forget the various unnecessary and 
potentially carcinogenic chemicals used 
to color, thicken, flavor, emulsify, 
leaven, preserve. 

Nobody likes to find hair in their food, 
but why should it be so unexpected? To 
be sure, all kinds of disgusting things 
happen in foo d processing plants. Field 

* Morton is made by Del Monte In fact, the 
Del Monte frozen foods are supposed to be 
top of the line relative to Morton. So it won't 
do this consumer any good to switch 



rats go into catsup. Workers drop rubber 
gloves, hair nets and chewing gum into 
vats. A friend of mine worked in a 
Watsonville brussel sprouts factory 
where a junkie friend of hers barfed on 
the belt. My friend watched in smug 
revulsion as the vomit-sauced cab- 
bagettes were packaged and frozen. 
(Aren't these stories oddly fascinating?) 

The husband's horror of the hairs is 
embedded in the modern food distribu- 
tion system. Until recently, meals were 
prepared in small kitchens by people 
intimately associated in daily life. If you 
found a hair in your food, it was Cousin 
Bette's, or maybe the landlady's. A hair 
in a TV dinner, on the other hand, is an 
anonymous yet intimate intrusion. It 
provokes a correspondingly vague-yet- 
intense dread of contamination 

This separation from the source of 
food and its natural qualities can take on 
absurd distances, as in the following 
letter: 

/ recently purchased your product Del 
Monte "PITTED PRUNES." While 
chewing one of the pitted prunes, much 
to my horror, I bit down upon a pit — you 
will find this pit attached plus the 
purchase wrapper. 

This pit incident has caused damage to 
my tooth [which is capped]. I cannot 
pi edict the extent of damage until I see 
my dentist, however, when the pit made 
contact with my tooth, I heard a loud 
crack" and I now find the area to be 
very sensitive. 

As you can well imagine I am in great 
distress and would appreciate hearing 



from you as soon as possible. 

I cannot afford dentistry as I am 
unemployed. 

The food companies can't even leave 
untouched the most ostensibly 'natural' 
foods. There are ways to eat prunes and 
avoid the pits — you can hold the prune 
and just bite around the pit, or gingerly 
puncture the end of the prune and suck 
the pit out, or stick the whole prune in 
your mouth and chew around the sides of 
the pit with your molars. If you expect to 
find the pit anyway, you can deal with it. 
I read many other letters where people 
were similarly 'horrified,' 'shocked,' or 
'appalled' to find a naturally-occuring 
part in their food. And because they 
really weren't expecting it, they often 
hurt themselves when they choked on a 
bean or grape stem, cut their cheek on a 
chicken bone, or bit into a prune pit. 

We need to know what to expect from 
food so that we don't find ourselves 
poisoned, down with case of the runs, or 
unexpectedly drugged (what delicious 
mushrooms!). But we also desire 
variety, both for nutritional satisfaction 
and sensual interest. The desire for 
variety could be an evolutionary adapta- 
tion, enabling humans to obtain the 
nutrition they need in a range of environ- 
ments. Tribal people, except in times of 
extreme shortage, usually have a varied 
diet obtained from small-scale agricul- 
ture, hunting, and gathering. One tribe 
in the Philippines can identify and use 
1,600 different plants. Similarly, peasant 
cultures, though usually burdened by 
landlords, banks and profiteering mid- 




Kitchen Motors Provide 
Wholesome Family Entertainment! 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



15 



dlemen, diversify their diet by raising 
vegetables appropriate to the season, 
gathering herbs, greens, berries and 
nuts in the wild, and hunting and 
trapping. The people in outlying towns 
and cities benefit from their resource- 
fulness—witness a European or Chinese 
town on market day. 

The food corporations flatten diver- 
sity. Choice and variety exist as an array 
of commodities. What we find at super- 
markets is not real variety; the same 
things in different packaging take up 
large amounts of 'shelf space.' A stan- 
dard American 'junk food' item like 
chocolate wafers with 'creme' centers is 
offered in the name brand form (Oreos), 
the competitive brand form fHydrox) and 
the 'economy' house brand form (Lady 
Lee, Bonnie Hubbard, Frau Sicheweg, 
etc ) In the produce section, you can buy 
the standard tomato, the standard 
zucchini, the standard peach. But a 
perusal of any seed or fruit tree catalog 
is a revelation. Every 'basic' fruit or 
vegetable exists in several forms, each 
varying in taste, texture and appear- 
ance. Unless you have your own garden, 
it's impossible to obtain the variety our 
agricultural heritage has to offer. 

The Del Monte letters revealed a great 
deal of atomized, isolated food consump- 
tion. Particulary sad were the old people 
who would write about how they lived on 
TV dinners. Since they ate by them- 
selves, they found the portions just 
right, with no waste or leftovers, and the 
dinners were easy to prepare. But TV 
dinners are not a healthy diet, especially 
for older people needing to restrict their 
consumption of salt, fat, and refined 
carbohydrates. These atomized meal 
preparations reveal the sort of com- 
munity that people in our society age 
into— none. 

True, at least a third of the letters 
claimed a "guest" or "company" was 
present when food was found to be 
defective. Like the asparagus letter at 
the beginning of this article. Or this one: 





"Freeze The Zukes" 






Del Monte 
Consumer Affairs: 
Katherine M. Randle: 

Dear Ms. Randle: 

My husband and I have just returned 
from a vacation and upon my return I 
found your letter of Jan. 10th, 1985 
awaiting me. 

I was sick to my stomach for 3 days on 
my vacation, due solely to the memory of 
my opening of the Del Monte can of 
Yellowstone or Freestone Yellow Peaches, 
taking a quick sip of the usually delicious 
syrup, and seeing this horrible cock-roach, 
floating up to me right under my eyes. The 
mere thought of it still sickens me. I very 
easily could have swallowed some remote 
part of the roach or even its feces. I tasted 
the syrup. I did not eat any part of the 
peaches. 

Your letter explains in detail the pro- 
cedure you take, and I quote, "You take 
particular care that the product is 
wholesome and free of any foreign 
matter" unquote. How then can you 
explain the presence of this ugly horribly 
roach floating in the juice, floating up to 
me before my eyes? 

I have the roach itself frozen in a 
Baggie, the can with the number stamped 
intact on the bottom of the can in my 
freezer, as per instructions from the 
gentleman with whom I spoke at the State 
Food and Drug Administration. I would 
very much like to get the filthy thing out of 
my freezer. 

I was ill for 3 days after the incident, 
wholly due to the fact of remembering the 
roach. My stomach was truly upset. Nice 
way to start a vacation! On the 5th day we 
took a tour in Honolulu to the Dole 
pineapple fields and saw the sign of the 
Del Monte fields, and the mere sign "Del 
Monte" conjured up my memory again of 
the roach. I will never again be able to 
enjoy the delicious taste of a cold, juicy 
freestone peach from any can, from any 
brand again. This thought alone makes me 
very very angry. So, Ms. Randle, I'm 
sorry to inform you that 3-$1 .00 coupons is 
not going to compensate me for the misery 
I encountered on my vacation and the 
future sacrifice of any enjoyment I would 
derive from eatmg a dish of nice canned 
peaches. 

I'm returning your 3-51.00 coupons and 
hopefully some remuneration in accord 
with the misery I endured will be forth- 
coming. If not I shall take the horrible 
cock-roach frozen and the can and consult 
my attorney. 

I thoroughly dislike writing a letter like 
this Ms. Randle, I know you are just doing 
your job, but I have no alternative. 
Siqcerely, 
Mrs. Dor Man 
La Mesa, Calif. 



...Last evening I had guests for 
dinner. I was serving the fruit cocktail as 
t an appetizer when one of my guests 
found this bit of extra on his spoon [a 
grape stem]. Needless to say, I was very 
embarrassed... 

But having guests was such a common 
claim that I suspect it often wasn't true. 
People didn't feel confident in asserting 
complaints on their own behalf. They 
needed a witness, imaginary or other- 
wise. Somehow, they were embarrassed 
about eating alone. 

Meal sharing is a way of experiencing 
human connectedness — care, equality 
friendship. From this point of view, the 
nuclear family dependent on corporate 
merchandise is clearly a failure. Inside 
it, people are bored, tense, harrassed — 
like the harried housewife with her Steak 
Dinner. Outside, they are alone. The 
most fundamental human collective 
activity, meal preparation and consump- 
tion, is done in solitude, even after the 
preparation becomes strenuous and the 
consumption delicate, as it is for the 
elderly. In many suburban families, it is 
common for people regularly to eat their 
dinners while watching separate TV's, 
unless they go out together to eat. 

The Price of Grain and the Price of Blood 

The Third World is starving. Some 
would claim that it is wrong to be con- 
cerned with alienation and sensual 
deprivation in the U.S. when many 
people can't even get a minimal daily 
serving of rice and beans. Such an 
attitude fails to see the interrelatedness 
of the problems, how the same institu- 
tions are responsible for both. It also 
misses the possibility for a politics 
rooted in our daily life, leaving us power- 
less to do anything except donate money 
to this or that relief agency. 

In Food First by Francis Moore Lappe 
and Joseph Collins, you can look up Del 
Monte in the index, and then go down 




"Cash Crops Will 
Solve World Hunger' 



16 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



the sublistings to find out how the 
company usurps traditional farm prac- 
tices in different areas. 

• In Costa Rica, the company gives 
special loans to politically well-placed 
landowners. 

• In Guatemala, Del Monte owns 
57,000 acres of agricultural land but 
plants only 9000. The rest is fenced off 
lust to keep the peasants from using it. 

• In Mexico, the company pays the 
farmers 10 cents a pound for asparagus 
that it gels 25 cents a pound for in the 
U.S. 




"Give Peas A Chance" 

• In the Philippines, armed company 
agents coerce peasants into leasing their 
land to Del Monte's pineapple plan- 
tations. Cattle have been driven onto 
planted fields to destroy crops, the 
peasants and their animals are bom- 
barded with aerial sprays. 

See also sublistings for Kenya, 
Hawaii, and Crystal City, Texas. 

An anonymous source in Del Monte 
middle management relates a bit of 
company lore. In the early seventies, a 
new data entry clerk punched in the 
wrong destination code for a 480-boxcar 
shipment of lima beans grown in the 
Philippines. Instead of arriving in Japan 
for processing, the limas wound up, 
completely rotten, in Kenya. The 
company fired the clerk and cavalierly 
wrote off the loss as a food donation to 
starving Africa. Such charity. 

A principal mechanism used for the 
destruction of native food systems is the 
conversion to export-oriented cash eco- 
nomies. The best lands are stolen/ 
bought by the corporations — or, more 
usually, by their agents in the local 
upper class Companies like Del Monte 
serve as the notorious "middleman," 
taking over the secondary role of broker, 
shipper, packer, merchandiser. The dis- 
placed peasantry surge onto marginal 



land which is quickly exhausted, farmed 
to death. Those remaining work for 
wages on the coffee, cocoa, rubber, 
luxury vegetable plantations. They buy 
their food from stores, much of it now 
imported and alien to the native cuisine. 
Here in the U.S., the best lands are 
obliterated by housing tracts, shopping 
malls, industrial plants. I grew up in the 
Marysville-Yuba City area of California. 
Dividing the two towns is the Feather 
River. Like the Nile, the Feather River 
used to flood once a year, depositing a 
layer of fertile silt. This silt built up into 
a topsoil suitable for wonderfully produc- 
tive orchards. The area used to be 
forested with peach, walnut, almond, 
plum trees. Until the construction of 
expensive, ecologically destructive 
dams, the towns used to worry about 
rainy season flooding. As I was growing 
up, more and more of the orchards were 
covered over by housing tracts. Im- 
mediately outside of town began the 
foothills of the Sierra Nevada, a region 
not as suitable for intensive farming but 
more pleasant for living (above the fog, 
below the snow, and with a view). And 
the foothills didn't flood. It seemed 
obvious that people should live in the 
hills and leave the valley floor either in 
its natural state or as farmland. As an 
adolescent, I would spend afternoons 
mapping such ideal communities, 
sketching in community greenhouses 
and herb gardens as well as libraries, 
theaters, and hospitals. 




r ez^u 



"Squash The State" 

I still fantasize urgently about such 
communities. I imagine little burgs with 
lookout points onto the valley, parts of 
which are laid out for agriculture, parts 
of which have been reclaimed by nature. 
The housing tracts and shopping malls 
have been torn down — the material from 
the old buildings has rotted away, been 
recycled, or been shipped off to the 
anthropological section of the Museum 
of Natural History in San Francisco. The 
orchards have been replanted — but 
instead of miles of boring Elbertas and 



Freestone peaches for the canning 
industry, we grow many varieties of 
fruit. This not only enlivens our diet and 
prolongs the seasons in which different 
fruits are available, it ensures that entire 
stands aren't threatened by blights or 
bad weather affecting either certain 
genetic strains or particular times of 
ripening or blossoming. The diversity 
also satisfies the cultural preferences of 
the different peoples who have settled in 
the area. 

There are fields of grain, again of 
diverse varieties and genetic strains. We 
never export grain, though. Most areas 
of the world are regionally self-sufficient 
in staple agriculture, and have well- 
maintained warehouses to protect them- 
selves from food shortage. We do ship 
off a few regional delicacies, like spiced 
canned peaches — we had to do some- 
thing with those old canneries! — nut 
butters, a Chinese-influenced plum 
sauce, virgin olive oil, wine. But our 
exports are nothing we can hold anyone 
to ransom with. 

Individuals or small collectives have 
trusteeship for plots of land that they 
work themselves. I and a couple of 
friends oversee an olive orchard planted 
on the lower slope of the hills, a prune 
orchard a little below that, an orchard of 
mixed fruits — fancy peaches, kiwis, per- 
simmons, other things we raise for the 
local market. Next to the orchards is an 
open cropped field that sometimes grows 
wheat, sometimes safflower, sometimes 
clover for grazing goats. The work 
required by our land trust varies from 
season to season, year to year. Things 
are especially hectic in late summer and 
fall when the olives need to be picked 
and pressed, the prunes dried and 
stored. We divide chores as best we can, 
but people have different capacities and 
other pulls on their time. Inequities 
happen, quarrels do flare up as a result 
and need to be mediated. Other col- 




"Cultivate a Sense of 
Humor— Hoe, Hoe, Hoe!" 



PROCESSED WORLO #15 



17 




lectives have been known to fragment in 
huffs of personal resentment. 

We use a mixed-bag technology. Even 
if we wanted to use petroleum-based 
chemicals and fertilizers, we couldn't. 
They're just not available; oil is too 
scarce. We learned a lot from the 
farmers on a work-learn excursion we 
made to Italy, which has a climate 
similar to ours and grows similar crops. 
A lot of the stuff that comes out of the 
transformed U.C. Davis is useful, too. 
Davis, previously a research center for 
agribusiness, is now a bustling study 
center for the decentralized western 
North America food production systems. 
But many improvement come out of our 
own experimentation. We own the tools 
and machinery that we use day-to-day. 
The special stuff we either borrow from 
the county warehouse or have brought in 
by special jobber teams that share in the 
harvest. 

At home, I have a vegetable garden 



Why Do 

Foodservice 

Operators 

Prefer 

Home Cooking? 

'Cuz they know 
what really goes 
into "foodservice 
operating"!! 




shared with the woman next door and 
her daughter. Now and then I coerce my 
lover to go out and pick some squash or 
rake the paths, but he mostly likes to 
stay inside and read. Jeff is a teacher; 
for him, dirt-poking ranges from tedious 
to uninteresting. 

How do we prepare our food? Some- 
times we cook at home, sometimes we 
warm up leftovers, sometimes we eat at 
the neighborhood kitchen. The cooking 
at the neighborhood kitchen is usually 
good, and the kitchen is a great place to 
catch up on local gossip and caucus for 
county meetings. Now and then, to 
celebrate, we eat at a specialized 
restaurant, where the real cooks oper- 
ate... 

Crusts of Brie and Such 

Such Utopian thinking is not irrelevant 
pending some grand historical juncture. 
Instead, we should use such thinking 



no"w, both To critiqTre the present world, 
and to imagine and build the world that 
we want to create. 

A sane food system, both for the Third 
World and for us, would mean com- 
munity responsibility for, and control of, 
local food production resources. To leave 
them in the hands of the corporations is 
to be vulnerable to their repressive and 
irresponsible economic, political, and 
ecological practices. 

Parts of such a sane food system 
already exist. In San Francisco, there are 
a couple of fairly good cooperatively- 
run grocery stores, a farmers' market 
where small growers can sell their 
produce, and a community garden net- 
work. There used to be a widely-patron- 
ized home delivery cooperative. These 
institutions should be emulated and 
broadened. But along with such worthy 
do-it-yourself projects, we should exa- 
mine the land use in our vicinities. Our 
cities are built on valleys and plains that 
were once farmland — land that should 
still be the ground of our sustenance. 
Possible activities to retake this ground 
range from organizing community gar- 
dens* on vacant land to fighting 
construction projects that eat into agri- 
cultural districts, demanding a redistri- 
bution of that land to small growers who 
use ecologically responsible methods. 

When I announced at the Processed 
World shop that I was working an article 
about food, someone jibed, "I don't 
know if I want to read it. It will tell me 

* Especially in an urban area, it's a good idea 
to get the soil tested for lead and other 
chemical residues before you start a garden 
Make the landlord pay for it! 




"Weed Out the 
Pesticide Pushers' 



18 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



,1,1,1,1,1,1,1 



■ :rr,:ri..:i:i:i!i!i:i:i!i!m: 




rtrTTTTTT, i , i ; i ; 

about all the things I shouldn't eat but do 
anyway." We expect an analysis of the 
food industry to conclude by listing 
things that are unhealthy (like chemical 
and fat laded processed food), or deprive 
other people of needed resources (like 
the meat industry or the production of 
cocoa and coffee), or should be boycotted 
(like Campbell's soup, Nestles, table 
grapes...). Such calls for abstention not 
only sounds like yet another puritanical 
injunction against enjoyment, but can 
also be impossibly inconvenient. Our 
food distribution system has been 
colonized by the food corporations, too. 
For instance, you're late for work and 
you don't have time to pack a reasonably 
nutritious lunch. You're going to have to 
forage at the company lunchroom or the 
corner roach coach What kind of food do 
you really expect to find there? 

People have a fierce emotional attach- 
ment to what they eat. Food is pleasure, 
security, cultural affirmation. A politics 
of food needs to account for all these 
things. Pleasure particularly is dis- 
counted in discussing food. Take pains 
with a pie for a party and you're im- 
mediately accused of being a yuppie. 
Propose that a group meet at a local ca/e 
and somebody will assert that McDon- 



. i l I I I I I I I 1,1,1 

■ ■ lllujjjjjj i ! i ; i ; i 



aids is more working-class. Yet a recla- 
mation of regional cuisine can be a 
motivation for a Third World people to 
reject the banal diet it has been forced to 
adopt since the destruction of its native 
agriculture. A similar urge on our part 
can be an enticement to the development 
ol food distribution systems that super- 
sede the corporate food industry because 
they offer food that is more pleasurable 
as well as produced in socially and 
ecologically responsible ways. 

We also find pleasure in the com- 
munality of food — sitting down and 
gossiping while peeling apples, hoeing a 
garden together, sharing a feast. Such 
activities may seem too homely for 
political consideration. But think about 
what it means to have these activities 
supplanted from our daily life in favor of 
the more quickly prepared, the more 
brilliantly packaged. There are many 
ways to be starved. Food is our primary 
connection to the world around us and to 
each other. Leaving it to the corporations 
is self-destructive in more ways than 
one. Establishing an intimate relation- 
ship to food is a way of reviving our own 
diminishing humanity. 

— by Paxa Lourde 

i . . . i , • . . , . . i , i , i , . - 1 , . - . . i , i , i , i , i , i , i , • - 1 , i . i , • 
I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 

!i|iji|i i i i i i i i i i 




i i i i i 

1,11 
iiiii 

i i i i i 
'■'i i i i 



i i i i i i i r 

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i 

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i 

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i 

i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i i 

i,i,i|i|i i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i'i 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



19 



CHAINSAWS 



& 



CRT'S 

DO NOT A 
FOREST MAKE 




Book review of Ecodefense—A Field Guide to Monkey- 
wrenching, (A Ned Ludd Book, from Earth First! Books, P.O. 
Box 5871, Tucson, AZ 85703). Reviewed by Primitivo 
Morales. 



omewhere in California, in an air-conditioned and 
sealed chamber, a CDC 60meg hard disk spins in a 
vacuum. The system operator notes the log-on of a 
job lyrically named "RD_CONTOUR_39". Si- 
lently the currents ebb and flow; in another room a printer 
continues chattering to itself as it vomits out a few more 
meters of paper (recycled!). Smocked figures take the 
stacks, feed them to other machines, sort them into 
various bins. Messengers appear and the envelopes and 
boxes disappear to a Crown-Zellerbach building, all glass 
and metal. Polite people huddle over the paper, more 
machines are invoked, arcane symbols are inscribed; more 
paper is processed. 





i$tL..vfc! ■„,.>.,.. .^IWvAiA. 

Backcountry Spiking Can Be Fun For The Whole Family! 



20 



In the early morning hours a week later, in the Siskiyou 
mountains, a couple of engineers in battered yellow 
hardhats climb out of a pickup truck, consulting 
blue-prints as they finish their coffee. With a team of 
surveyors they begin driving a confusing array of pine 
stakes with gaily colored ribbons into the ground. Before 
summer heat peaks, there is a narrow paved road snaking 
through the pristine valley, up ridges and into a primeval 
forest. Below the snarl of chainsaws and the clanking of 
Cats you can hear the low growling of logging trucks. The 
overall plan says that after the logging phase, one area is 
to be reforested as a tree farm, and the remaining land 
will become a subdivision of summer houses. 

Even as you read this, more forest is vanishing beneath 
the saws and the Rome Plows. Wetlands are filled, 
prairies are fenced and grazed to death, more marginal 
areas are utilized. Whether in the Brazilian forest or the 
Jersey shore the old natural world vanishes. 

There is a wide variety of evils that are the results of 
this: land erosion and silting, sinking water tables, ground 
& water contamination, less green and more noise, 
perhaps major catastrophe in the form of new weather 
cycles or reduced oxygen generation. For any of us who 
find joy in the natural world, it is becoming a grimmer and 
grayer place. 

But wait! Two dark forms slip through the trees under a 
full moon. They move quickly up the ridge, pulling stakes 
as they go. Occasionally one will move off the road, reach 
up a tree, remove a ribbon. In the past few weeks other 
teams of people have been roaming the intended logging 
area, driving spikes into trees, mostly above head height. 
Several old mining roads into the area have had spikes 
driven into the roadbed, and in one place a culvert has 
been pulled out. Although the down-slope will erode, the 
road (and its users) would cause yet more damage. 

As with many corporate greedheads' ventures, the 
project is on marginal financial ground. The increased 
costs of relaying survey lines and rescheduling crews, the 
greater security forces needed, have hurt. Today a letter 
came from the ranger's office saying that there has been 
an anonymous message that the trees in the lumber sale 
have been spiked. A few spikes have been found, and 
there are surely more. The chainsaws of the loggers won't 
find the spikes, but expensive blades in the sawmill will. 
(No, Virginia, it doesn't really hurt the tree.) The project 
is eventually cancelled. Maybe they'll be back; for now a 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 



small defensive engagement has been 
won. 

Although the exact details herein are 
fictitious, they outline a real phenome- 
non: Monkeywrenching. A 1973 book by 
Edwary Abbey, The Monkeywrench 
Gang (Bantam) gave a fictitious, stirring 
account of one such band of 'ecoteurs.' 
Now there is a new book, Ecodefense — A 
Field Guide to Monkeywrenching which 
updates some aspects of this nefarious 
activity. Editor Dave Foreman, who has 
worked with The Wilderness Society in 
the southwest and Washington DC, is a 
founder of a militant environmental 
group called "Earth First!". Although 
I'm sure he would never violate the law 
himself, he clearly has talked to people 
who have. Most of the book is a well- 
written distillation of their skills and 
hard-earned experience. As a practiced 
billboard corrector I enjoyed his com- 
ments on the topic and found them well 
taken. From my juvenile activities in 
New Mexico I could appreciate his 
advice on the sabotage of bulldozers, 
land developers, and the like. Accurate, 
and fun reading, even if you never plan 
on doing it. 

Chapters include tactics against roads 
and tires, vehicles and heavy construc- 
tion equipment, defense of animals, 
propaganda and "miscellaneous devil- 
try." There is an excellent chapter on 
security which should be read by all who 
engage in activities at which they would 
rather not be caught. He covers clothing, 
tools, communications, night operations, 
guards (two and four footed), and basic 



evidence (traces you leave behind, or 
that cling to you). 

Perhaps the most interesting part of 
the book is the first chapter, Strategic 
Monkeywrenching. After a review of 
what this country used to have and has 
lost, he notes what else is threatened (a 
lot). He points out that much wilderness 
development is on a precarious financial 
footing, if it can be made expensive 
enough a lot of projects will be called off. 
He then outlines 11 principles in the 
light against the despoilers. 

Monkeywrenching is 

1) Nonviolent— It is directed at mach- 
ines and tools, and care is taken that 
people won't be hurt. 

2) Not Organized— There is no central 
direction. The lack of a network prevents 
infiltration. 

3) Individual — It is carried out by 
individuals or by small groups that know 
each other well. 

4) Targeted — It is not random van- 
dalism: strike the most vulnerable point. 

5) Timely— Generally not to be done 
when/where there is civil disobedience 
occuring — it will cloud the issue and 
bring heat on allies who didn't do it. 

6) Dispersed— It is widespread in the 
US (and elsewhere). 

7) Diverse — All kinds of people are 
involved, and they will probably each 
have their own specialties, local or 
distant. 

8) Fun — It is serious, even dangerous, 
but there is also excitement, camarade- 
rie, etc. 




9) Not Revolutionary — "It does not 
aim to overthrow any social, political or 
economic system. It is merely non- 
violent self-defense or the wild. It is 
aimed at keeping industrial 'civilization' 
out of natural areas and causing its 
retreat from areas that should be wild. It 
is not major industrial sabotage. Explo- 
sives, firearms & other dangerous tools 
are usually avoided. They invite greater 
sc rutiny Irom law enforcement agencies, 
repression and loss of public support. 
I I he Direct Action group in Canada is a 
good example of what monkeywrenching 
is not ) Even Republicans monkey- 
wrench " 

10) Simple— Simplest tool, safest tac- 
tic th.it will do the job. 

11) Deliberate and Ethical— Those 
who engage in it must be very conscious 
of the gravity of their actions. This is a 
moral action — protecting life, defending 
the earth. 

In general these are excellent points. 
He has a good sense of the morality of 
the activity, and the book continually 
emphasizes thoughtfulness in acting. 
Small, decentralized groups doing what 
they will is not only safer, but also more 
effective. People naturally choose tar- 
gets of interest — perhaps not every 
malefactor will be impeded, but certainly 
a lot will. If one groups breaks up or is 
caught, there are still others out there. 
Unfortunately with the large number of 
targets, we must pick and choose. Occa- 
sionally 'targets of opportunity' should 
be seized, but if such actions are to have 
any hope of succeeding they must be 



This Land Is Your Land 




PROCESSED WORLD #15 



calculated. The point tnat action is to be 
fun is worth remembering, for so much 
of what we do isn't. There's no reason 
why action has to be a drag. Of course, if 
you don't enjoy such things you 
shouldn't engage in them. 

Not everybody that engages in these 
actions qualifies as a monkeywrencher. 
You might trash heavy equipment only 
because it's there — get off on breaking 
glass and burning equipment — then ride 
off into the sunset, ruining the hills with 
your motorcycles, throwing away your 
beer bottles as you go. 

My biggest problem with Foreman's 
analysis is point #9. As long as all we do 
is limit ourselves to defensive reactions 
to attacks, we will find ourselves 
defeated. Here and there we may chase 
the zopilotes (buzzards) away, but they 
go pick on some other area that is less 
defended, or turn their bloody attentions 
overseas. No, as long as there is this 
drive to subjugate nature, to value the 
land, water and air only as things to be 
bought/sold/used, the "developers" 
and the rapists will be back. If $100,000 
was more than they could afford this 
time, in two years maybe the accoun- 
tants will say that such a sum is OK. For 
a small company such costs may make 
them stop, but for any of the major 
companies (Weyerhauser, etc.) an extra 
half-million in costs (which would be a 
major attack) will be written off. They 
pay higher insurance rates and continue 



— they may make only $3.5 million, but 
they can stand the smaller profit. And of 
course in a serious confrontation with the 
government, they can escalate farther 
and faster than we can if they think it is 
worth the financial and political price. 

I myself have a strictly tactical en- 
dorsement of non-violence; as a strategy 
it is foolish. In addition to the clear need 
(at times) for self-defense, there are 
times that those who are most respon- 
sible for public crimes should be person- 
ally subject to retaliation. The big vul- 
ture should come to roost on their 
shoulder — not the guard's, or the 
secretary's, or the slob's out in the field. 
Such actions are never to be engaged in 
lightly; when it is done there must be a 
broad understanding of why: it must 
answer a common sense of justice. 

The book doesn't touch on monkey- 
wrenching outside of immediately 
threatened wilderness areas. But there's 
no reason for those in the urban jungle to 
feel slighted, or to travel great distances 
to do something. If you find yourself one 
day handling some information about 
something that sounds like a bad idea, 
you might check it out. If it really is bad, 
maybe you could create a timely inter- 
vention. At the very least you might be 
able to publicize some singularly sleazy 
aspect, and warn those near the affected 
area who may not yet know of future 
plans. 




For Those 
Hard-to- 
Reach 
Spots 




Whether in the Pacific Northwest, 
New Zealand, or the raped Lake Baikal 
in the USSR, this fight is international 
and very political. Acid rain doesn't stop 
at the Canadian border. "Free" and 
"communist" countries alike have a 
terrible record on conservation and 
reducing pollution; third-world countries 
face the threat of deforestation (no more 
cooking fires) both from domestic use, 
the US cattle barons, and transnational 
agribusiness. 

fo change the thinking that leads to 
the attack on the earth and to derail the 
system that does it, is very definitely 
revolutionary. It will require that all of us 
change the way we live; this country 
consumes over half of the world's non- 
renewable resources. Nobody else even 
comes close — how long do you think it 
will last, gringo? Radical change will 
strike at the very root of our economy 
(intensive and extensive exploitation), at 
the politics and psychology of consump- 
tion, and our relation to the natural 
world and with each other. 

This book will not tell you why the 
Earth should be defended (if you can't 
feel it I'm not sure any book could ever 
explain it), but it will give some ideas on 
how to defend it. It's good on the 
mechanical details and is thoughtul in its 
purpose. The book is worth reading for 
anybody who is inclined to such resis- 
tance, for the curious, for law enforce- 
ment officials and developers, and for 
office/industrial workers who take an 
interest in the earth. If you wish that the 
world looked like the Pasadena Freeway, 
you won't like this book. But you might 
go off and play on your freeway, and 
leave a bit of green for those animals 
among us who don't. Wishful thinking. 
Ecodefense is available for $10, as if 
Earth First! The Radical Environmental 
Journal (8 issues a year, $15), some very 
nice calendars and some 'silent, agita- 
tors' (stick-on labels, one of which 
condemns Coors), from Earth First! at 
the address at the beginning of this 
review. They solicit suggestions on 
monkeywrenching (tested only, please) 
and clippings. Don't send your name on 
such items — send them separately from 
any commercial correspondence. They 
don't keep a list of buyers of the book 
and do not keep letters. Ecodefense will 
be published as an on-going project with 
periodic updates. Look in your local 
bookstore. 

4 stars — check it out! 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 

babysitting & laundry, 
shopping — her day 
off. 

Kurt Lipschutz 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 



22 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



This is not an ordinary 
Sunday in Watson- 
ville. True, some 
things go on as usual. The 
discount clothing stores 
along Freedom Boulevard 
are doing some business, 
crowds of brown men and 
women line up outside the 
movie theater to see Siete 
Cadaveres, the little restau- 
rants advertise regional 
specialties like goat meat 
enchiladas en el estilo de 
Chiapas, field-hands chat on 
street corners watching 
passers-by, mothers with 
babies dot the little park with 
the decaying bandstand. It 
could almost be a market 
town in northern Mexico. 
But it isn't. Watsonville is a 
fast-growing city in eastern 
Santa Cruz County, 
California, the broccoli and 
brussel sprouts capital of 
America. And in the little 
park the red-and-black eagle 
banners of the United Farm 
Workers are gathering next 
to the mothers in their 
Sunday best. 

The UFW has come to 
march in solidarity with the 
close to 2,000 frozen food 
workers here, members of 
the Teamsters Cannery Local 
912 who have been on strike 
for over two months against 
the two largest canneries in 
the U.S. Eighty percent of 
the workers are women, 
overwhelmingly Mexicans or 
Chicanas; women whose 
lightning-fast fingers trim a 
minimum of sixteen heads of 
broccoli a minute to be 
frozen, packed in flimsy 
white boxes and shipped to 
supermarkets all over the 
country. 

The rally is in progress in 
another park across town, 
where between two and 
three thousand people are 
listening to the speeches or 
milling around, talking. A 
few small delegations are 
here from other unions. But 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 




the vast majority are cannery 
and field workers, local 
people. A CHP helicopter 
circles obtrusively, a couple 
of hundred feet overhead, 
while dozens of riot police 
are massing quietly at the 
park's edge. A speaker 
announces that the police 
have withdrawn permission 
for the march, but that the 
organizers have decided to 
march anyway. A roar of ap- 
proval goes up from the 
crowd. A few more minutes 
and the march begins pour- 
ing out of the park. The riot 
police block off certain 
streets but have obviously 
been instructed to let the 
march through, at least for 
the time being. The crowd's 
hatred and contempt for 
them is obvious. "Son la 
policia— de la caneria" two 
young men chant; "they're 
the cannery's own cops." 
The march reaches the 
gates of Watsonville Can- 
ning, the company that pro- 
voked the strike by offering a 
non-negotiable contract that 
made huge cuts in wages 
and benefits. Riot cops, two 

ines deep, block the 
entrance to the plant. The 
crowd swirls against them 
like water backing up behind 
a dam; nervous UFW ste- 
wards try to keep the march 
moving past the plant gate. 

n the warm, foggy air there 
is a sharp smell of trouble. 

Mexican women, impracti- 
cally dressed in skirts and 
heels, yell insults at the 
police: "Murderers! Beasts! 
Racists!" "Break the line! 
Break the line!" some of 
them shout. "Who are they 
kidding?" a Black woman 
hollers, "I've been working 
here for 13 years and I'm not 
goin' back in for $4.75 an 
hour!" Then the crowd spots 
the Teamster officials behind 
the police line. Conster- 
nation. "What are you doing 
over there?" "Get over 

23 




here!," the women yell, "You should be 
on ihis side!" 

Somehow, trouble is avoided. Too 
many children in the crowd, perhaps. 
Too many outsiders, too many cameras 
and reporters. The march moves on, a 
mile through back streets and out along 
a concrete access road to Richard Shaw, 
Inc., the second struck plant. The 
helicopter keeps circling overhead, 
inviting rude gestures and jeers from the 
crowd. A few minutes of chanting 
slogans into the clenched visored grins 
of the riot police, and the marchers 
disperse. 



Carlos, a worker in the cannery and 
self-appointed publicity director for the 
strike, has arranged a meeting at his 
home after the march. Several people 
jam into his living room/kitchen while 
children play in the adjoining bedroom. 
These two tiny rooms and the bathroom 
house Carlos, his wife Teresa, (also a 
cannery worker) and their two children 
at a rent of $300 a month — typical of 
what seasonal workers have to pay for 
equivalent or worse housing. 

One of those present is Sergio Lopez, a 
business agent for Local 912. Over the 
last decade, he explains, the frozen food 
industry in California has run into 
trouble, most from intensified foreign 
competition. Although the Watsonville- 
area plants still processed 40". > of the 
nation's frozen broccoli, brussels 
sprouts, green peppers and spinach last 
year, frozen broccoli imports have 
increased dramatically, from 33 million 
pounds in 1983 to 65 million pounds last 
year. Watsonville companies also face 
inroads from Mexican-grown vegetables 
processed by non-union labor in Texas. 

"Three years ago, the manager at 
Watsonville Canning, Smiley Verduzco, 
asked the workers for a break. He 
promised to make it up in the next few 
years." The workers in the lowest 
bracket, comprising 90% of the work- 
force, went along. They agreed to a cut 



from $7.06, the industry standard, to 
$6.66 an hour. When this contract 
expired in June, the company offered a 
"two-tier system" which would freeze 
rates for current employees and hire new 
ones at $4.25. In August, the workers 
unanimously rejected the offer and 
demanded a return to industry parity at 
$7.06, as Verduzco promised. 

After a series of propaganda meetings 
with various groups of workers in the 
plant, management simply implemented 
its new plan without a contract. Then, 
when the union brought in the Federal 
Mediation Service, the gloves came off. 
"We couldn't believe it" Lopez recalls. 
"They offered $4.75 to existing workers 
and $4.25 to new hires, and added 54 
takeaways, including the dues checkoff 
(automatic subtraction of union dues 
from workers' paychecks). They elimi- 
nated vacation pay for seasonal workers, 
who are the majority. Everybody walked 
out " In the last week of October, 
management raised its offer to $5.05. 
The strikers voted 800-1 against accep- 
tance. 

Shortly after the strike broke out at 
Watsonville, rumors spread that Richard 
Shaw Inc. was about to follow Watson- 
ville's lead. Shaw's proposal turned out 
not to be quite as drastic — a cut from 
$7 06 to $6.66, the previous Watsonville 
norm, and a mere 25 takeaways — but 
workers at Shaw joined the walkout 
anyway, in a bid to reduce the labor pool 
available to each plant. Other area 
canneries have extended their old 
contracts with the union by one year, 
waiting to see what happens at Watson- 
ville. 

For the first 8 weeks of the strike, 
plants operated with 80-100 workers 
apiece, far below the customary 1000- 
2000. By all accounts, the strikers had 
the support of the Watsonville commu- 
nity Strike rally flyers in the windows of 
many local stores confirm this impres- 
sion, as did the fact that virtually no 
locals were crossing the picket lines. 

Lopez says that it was obvious to him 



□ □□□ Bank of America ddddd 




24 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



the company had prepared for a strike 
when he was called to State Superior 
Court only five hours after the walkout 
began, only to find three attorneys from 
the nation's foremost union-busting law 
firm, Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff & 
Tichy, representing Watsonville Can- 
ning. "The paperwork had been all 
ready to go to Superior Court for a 
restraining order, they probably already 
had their affidavits full of lies prepared 
beforehand." Quickly, the court moved 
to limit the total number of pickets at 
each plant to 60, and to forbid strikers 
irom approaching within 100 yards of teh 
gates. Since then, the picket limit has 
dropped steadily, and now stands at four 
to each gate. 

Moreover, Lopez says that one week 
before the strike, the company began "a 
terrorist attack" on the workers. It 
posted signs with new performance 
standards (20 heads of broccoli per 
minute instead of 16) and began termi- 
nating and suspending people, especial- 
ly workers with over fifteen years 
seniority, "for really trivial reasons." 

Despite all this, Lopez claims that 
management's position is not as strong 
as it looks. 

"It's only a matter of time before they 
start running out of product. They need a 
full line of product or they can't find 
buyers. If the mechanics, floor leaders, 
lab workers, forklifters, and so on had 
not walked out in such great numbers, 
I'd be worried that the company would 
get going in a matter of weeks. But no 
way can they train 1000 workers with a 
few supervisors. " 

Carlos is less optimistic about the 
possibility of winning the strike soon. 



There are two peak seasons at the 
cannery — the first one lasts from mid- 
February to mid-May, the second begins 
the first week in September and lasts 
through November. Carlos says that in 
the early season this year, the cannery 
was producing much more than usual. 
He figures they were already preparing 
for the strike. Margarita, a floor leader 
with 15 years seniority, postponed a 
vacation to Mexico this year when she 
realized the company was stockpiling 
and heard supervisors discussing a 
possible strike in the fall. Carlos believes 
the strikers will have to ride out the 
winter into spring, when the company 



with the mood of the workers. Ap- 
parently, the leadership has come not 
from the three Teamster business agents 
assigned to the two plants but from the 
ranks of the workers. Some of these 
unofficial organizers have no previous 
experience in strikes, while others are 
veterans. Jorge was active in the farm- 
workers' organizing drives in the early 
70s, and Carlos, then a university 
student in public relations, did support 
work for striking workers in his native 
Mexico City. Both of them tell of the 
total disorganization in the first few days 
after the workers walked out. 

Carlos: "We had a meeting to organ- 

l um i wmj *! * <■ Mm, 



"\ said 'Fine, what time is the meeting?' and [the 
Teamsters] told me I couldn't come. I was really mad. I 
tried to go in but they took me out by force." 



will really begin losing a lot of money if 
the plant isn't working at full capacity. 



SELF-ORGANIZA TION 

Several workers we interviewed com- 
plained about the union's lack of mili- 
tance in organizing the strike. Sergio 
Lopez claims that the union could not 
prepare beforehand because "we didn't 
know who we sould be able to count on 
during the strike, who would cross picket 
lines." It is surprising, in that case, that 
local union officials were so out of touch 



*0**+m0*m\ i tm < iu i h » m 

tie pickets, and it was a mess. One 
person would say 'I'll take the 2 o'clock 
shift, ' another 'I'll take a shift at 9, ' and 
nobody was coordinating it. So I went 
around signing people up on a schedule, 
and handed out copies the next day. 
Then we put a leaflet together and 
collected money, you know how we do it 
in Mexico, passing a little can around. 
Someone told me: 'why don't you get 
some money from the strike fund?' I 
didn't know there was a strike fund! As 
it turns out, there's a fund of $45 per 
worker per week and the money was just 
sitting in the bank! So I put a budget 




PROCESSED WORLD #15 



together and went down to the union 
hall. They said they'd present it at their 
meeting. I said Fine, what time is the 
meeting?' and they told me I couldn't 
come. I was really mad. I tried to go in 
and they took me out by force. But they 
accepted my budget. " 

Even after the budget was approved, 
it took Carlos a couple of frustrating days 
to get through the Teamster bureaucra- 
cy. He is hoping to get control of the 
strike fund placed in the hands of elected 
worker delegates. Currently there are 
worker reps on the board that control the 
funds, but they have no power because 
they can't sign the checks. 

Carlos spent the first $1,000 on three 
spots on local TV. He placed the ads 
during commercial breaks in the popular 
Spanish-language soap opera Topacio. 
"At first everyone thought that was bad, 
to put our ads in the middle of a soap 
opera. But I said 'hey, how many people 
do you know that don't watch Topa- 
cio?' " 



Gloria and a few others complained 
that the union is not doing enough to 
help workers who have been arrested at 
the picket lines: 

"The union has a lot of money, it was 
their duty to get the buy who was 
arrested out of jail and we had to get the 
money together 'cause they didn't do 
it. " 

Other complaints include lack of com- 
munication from the union. Two weeks 
into the strike, Local 912 called the first 






\ +*mt* Hm t+****+++m***m+* 



general membership meeting. "A union 
guy talked for hours," Carlos recounts, 
"and then another guy translated." 
(Many of the workers speak very little 
English). "Then the union guys said 
they had to leave 'cause they had a court 
date, and everyone left the hall." Carlos: 
"Their speeches were a waste of time, 
boring people with a long talk when what 
was needed was to get things organized, 
and let people air their grievances." 
The strikers did not wait around for 



union officials to call another meeting or 
get things organized. On October 15, the 
adhoc "Strike Committee" called a 
general assembly which was attended by 
over 500 workers. The assembly elected 
six committees to handle various needs 
arising from the strike. The finance com- 
mittee coordinates the strike as a whole; 
other committees handle publicity, child- 
care, solidarity and outreach to other 
workers and communities, and help in 
collecting welfare and other public assis- 
tance. Each committee consists of ten 
delegates, five from each struck plant. 
"A lot of people who got involved in the 
committees didn't think they had any 
talent for organizing or public speak- 
ing," says Margarita. Now they're 
finding out they can do it." 

These facts are in contrast to the 
picture presented by local and national 
media (including the New York Times) 
which tend to portray the strike's 
militancy as the work of Teamsters for a 
Democratic Union (TDU), a national 



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26 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



left-led caucus within the Teamster's 
union. A handful of TDUers were active 
in pushing the union to call for a strike, 
they helped with support and publicity, 
and organizing the October rally. Also, 
local affiliates of the TDU Cannery 
Workers' Project have emerged as 
spokespeople for the strike, and two 
TDUers were elected as delegates to the 
strike committee. However, several 
unaffiliated rank-and-file organizers we 
spoke with remain somewhat suspicious 
of the TDU, fearing that it wants to 



would tail the scab vans back to nearby 
towns where the strikebreakers were 
dropped off at their homes. Strikers 
would then approach them and try to 
make their case. This method had some 
success with Mexican workers, less with 
the Filipinos and other ethnic groups the 
company is bussing in. Now the situation 
is hardening. The scab vans are 
regularly pelted with rocks and bottles, 
and an occasional molotov cocktail. 
Loading dock pallets are regularly 
burned. (During the weekend of October 



"Are you kidding? You should have seen 
this one nineteen-year old girl. She's the 
one that got the windshield with the 
rock." 

Another woman line worker is even 
more forthright. "Sure, I'd go 'round teh 
back gate and kick the scabs' butts when 
they came out. I'm not afraid of going to 
jail. I've been there before." And more 
ominously: "The Latino people, man, 
they're not afraid of violence. They'll get 
the scabs even if it has to be with 
weapons, they'll scare the people off the 




capture the leadership of the strike— in- 
creasingly a collective process outside 
union control — as part of a move to take 
Local 912 away from the more con- 
servative officials now in charge. "Sure, 
there are problems with the union," 
Carlos says. "But we don't need this 
right now. We can settle this stuff later, 
in open meetings of the workers." 

[When the strikers organized a second 
march on November 3, the Teamsters 
decided at the last minute to hold an 
"official" rally one week later, and 
urged the strikers to cancel their march, 
which had already been publicized. The 
strikers refused to change their plans. 
As one woman put it "We've had a lot of 
promises from the union. We'd rather 
have two marches than no march and a 
promise."] 



DIRECT ACTION 

Both mainstream media and the 
Teamster bureaucracy blame TDU for 
the "violence" and "vandalism" associ- 
ated with the strike. In fact, since the 
beginning of the strike, the workers have 
been exerting all kinds of pressure, both 
direct and indirect, to prevent the 
companies from recruiting scabs and 
moving them into the plants. 

"At first, we would try to inform the 
scabs and persuade them not to go in," 
says Gloria, pregnant mother of four and 
a three-year veteran of Watsonville 
Canning. At the end of the shift strikers 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 



5, a packing plant leased by Watsonville 
Canning was burned to the ground. The 
company blames the workers, four of 
whom have been arrested on charges of 
arson and attempted murder, but other 
strikers point out that the plant was 
tightly guarded and accuse the company 
of pulling an inside job to discredit the 
strike.) A woman worker tells of a 
bar-owner who had been recruiting 
scabs on commission. "The people went 
to talk to him and convince him to cut it 

"Women workers are 
taking a role in the strike 
that belies the cliche of the 
submissive, downtrodden 
Latina." 



out. He didn't, so his windows got 
smashed." She points out a man chat- 
ting with friends on the street. "See that 
guy? He owns a restaurant right by the 
cannery. We found out he's been 
helping scabs get in and out. So when we 
win the strike, we're goin' to boycott 
him." She chuckles. 

Women workers are taking a role in 
the strike that belies the cliche of the 
submissive, downtrodden Latina. Carlos 
l.iughs when asked whether women have 
been involved in a particular incident. 



busses." 

Underlying the women's open, defiant 
anger and displays of "masculine" 
bravado are the subtler changes in the 
traditional male-female relations the 
cannery workers' life has brought about. 
Many two-job couples with children, 
separated from the network of female 
relatives that would normally handle 
childcare in such situations in Mexico, 
are deliberately working different shifts 
so that one parent is always home with 
the kids. The men seem to have adapted 
fairly well to their new role, though not 
without some grumbling; at the October 
15 meeting, one man half-jokingly pro- 
posed a husband-care committee to go 
with the one for childcare. "This kind of 
change is especially important for Latino 
men," says Margarita. "They're so used 
to their women waiting on them hand 
and foot." 



A BLAZE CONTAINED? 

The way in which an apparent weak- 
ness—isolation from the normal Mexi- 
can family support network — has be- 
come a strength, seems to exemplify a 
pattern in this strike. At first sight, the 
strikers are in a poor position. As 
(mostly) immigrants and seasonal work- 
ers, they are not only uprooted from 
their cultural and political background, 
but linguistically isolated and vulnerable 
to attack from the Immigration Service — 
the hated "Migra." Yet these problems, 

27 



too, may turn out to have their useful 
side. Because the Watsonville workers 
are fairly homogenous, they tend to 
stand together against an alien and often 
hostile Anglo environment — personified 
in everyone from the redneck plant 
management that "treats us like stupid 
children, like animals" as Carlos puts it, 
to openly anti-immigrant Teamsters In- 
ternational president Jackie Presser. 
Correspondingly, the strikers are not as 
subject as most U.S. workers to the 
atomization and sense of powerlessness 
that come from suburban dispersal and 
the virtual disappearance of traditional 
working-class community. Moreover, 
the fact that their struggle has an 
inescapably ethnic dimension may allow 
them to tap into a powerful current of 
support in Latino communities across the 
country. 

The bureaucratic inertia of the union, 
too, has paradoxically become an advan- 
tage. Faced with the footdragging of 
Local 912 officials and the International, 
the strikers have been forced to develop 
their own organization, their own forms 
of action. At least partially, they have 



escaped the constrictions imposed by the 
whole apparatus of union hierarchy, 
labor legislation and "collective bar- 
gaining" carried out by a few individual 
highly-paid officials behind closed doors. 
They have not challenged the nature and 
content of their work — the boredom and 
lack of control, the processing of vege- 
tables that many wouldn't buy them- 
selves (some workers laughed uproar- 
iously when asked if they ate Watson- 
ville Canning's products). But the effort 
of self-organization and collective debate 
have triggered questioning that is 
already slicing deep into old assump- 
tions. "You know, I was a model 
worker,' says Margarita. "And I realized 
I've given them my youth, and for 
what?" 

It would be easy to see the Watsonville 
frozen food strike as archaic, part of the 
dealh-struggle of old-style unionized 
industrial labor; or as "exceptional" 
because of its Mexican immigrant base. 
In fact, the strikers have been lucky 
enough to find a unique source of 
strength in their heritage, but the 
conditions they face are both modern 



and universal; the cold hand of business 
power snatching back the gains won at 
such cost over half a century. Moreover, 
their situation highlights the fact that 
national boundaries are increasingly 
illusory in a global corporate economy. 
As San Francisco offices fill up with 
workers from Mexico, Central America, 
and Asia, factories are moved south and 
east in search of cheaper, more intimi- 
dated labor. If Watsonville looks almost 
like part of Mexico, of the "Third 
World," this only reminds us that much 
of the "Third World" is now highly 
industrialized, and by many of the same 
corporations whose offices we work in 
here. The glaciers of multinational 
capital, like a new Ice Age, cover the 
globe. The courage, resourcefulness and 
insistence on rank-and-file democracy 
shown by the Watsonville strikers 
provide a valuable example to all who 
seek to roll those glaciers back. 

— by Caitlin Manning & 
Louis Michaelson 



ft»**WM»«m**f**l«MM^^ 




me young 

METEOROLOGIST 



Editions available in English, Spanish and Jargon 



Clearly, one of the most devasta- 
ting effects of the current administra- 
tion's budget cuts has been the awful 
weather we've been having these past 
years. While everyone talks about it, 
and some even purport to take action, 
we of the Weather Action Group are 
at the vanguard of the struggle 
against excess precipitation. We 
believe that the time for umbrellas 
and raincoats has passed. Staying 
indoors is apathetic escapism. We 
must sieze the offensive and begin a 
constructive plan for climatological 
self-determination. That's why we 
say: "RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!" 

Any principled discussion of this 
issue must first begin with a critical 
examination of the previous attempts 
to halt the torrents of fat cats and 
running dogs that Reagan claims are 
merely "trickling down" on the 
outdoor working class. Many have 
tried, but look out your window and 
you can see that they have failed. 



Why? Let's look at a few examples. 

The Weather Underground: They 
believed that their violent acts could 
spark the drenched masses to take up 
arms against the downpour of oppres- 
sive moisture. But violence begets 
more violence. Where are they today? 
Washed up by a flood of state 
repression. 

The Freeze Movement: The trouble 
here is that they refuse to face the 
broader issues. Once we freeze the 
water, where are we going to put it? 
And further, who will control it? Will 
the resultant wealth be used on the 
part of the frozen foods industry? And 
what about poor people who need to 
drink water, shall they suck ice 
cubes? 

Even the Democrats give lip service 
to the weather; but remember, NO 
MATTER WHO REIGNS, THE POOR 
GET SOAKED! 

We at WAG say the time has come 
to change all this. Our strategy is to 



build coalitions with other warm- 
weather loving peoples. We are 
calling for a letter writing campaign to 
get some dry kindling. Most impor- 
tantly, to counter the cynical propa- 
ganda of weather reports we will hold 
high the shining example of the 
Albanian Republic, that bastion of 
planned weather. In Albania, thanks 
to the valiant revolutionary meteoro- 
logists, it only rains once a week, and 
then only at night. And you can bet no 
one leaves any tools out in the rain. 
But you never hear about this from 
weather reporters; they know that in a 
truly just society they'd have to work 
for a living. Trust our plan: we can 
bring an end to this tyrannical 
weather by June (or July at the 
latest). 

Remember, GOOD DRAINAGE IS 
NOT ENOUGH!! 

For more information call our 24 

hour hotline: (415)936-6478 

(415) WE MOIST 



28 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 




ontgomery Street morning smells good in a new 
grey suit, white shirt and tie, attache case and a full 
| wallet. Tips of the skyscrapers cut through the 
rolling pink-white clouds into blue. People hurry, brush 
by, excuse themselves with automatic smiles. Howling 
young messengers speed old bicycles recklessly through 
packed intersections. The city wakens and bustles to its 
responsibilities. 

On the last block before the office, I picked up speed 
and almost knocked him over, the little old man who stood 
suddenly before me as if dropped from a space-ship, 
pleading in a voice low but hoarse, "Ya got a buck for 
food?" I stammered, rushed by without answering, and 
looked back to see him staring at me, hand still out. He 
was old enough to be my father, pure white hair, red skin, 
old blue pants torn and hanging, beard grown long and 
aimless, blood hardening under his left eye. I felt a chill 
and, still looking backwards, crashed into a garbage can. 
Regaining my balance, I touched my leg where the pain 
was. The day felt already disordered. I took the rest of the 
way to the office slowly. 

A few blocks from home I often meet a small woman 
who travels with her bags. She gives the impression of 
age, with the thick lines that fill her face, and her grey 
scraggly hair, but I'm told she is not more than 40. Her 
bags are old paper shopping bags that are tearing at their 
handles. They are overfull; clothes and papers are always 
falling out onto the sidewalk. Her feet, with their large 
purple veins, are visible through gaping holes in her 
sneakers. A sick-looking terrier follows her everywhere. 



She stops to window-shop at garbage containers and 
shopping center dumpsters. I look at her, trying to take 
her in before she notices me. That day it's too late; she 
adjusts her waddle and approaches me. Her little blue 
eyes are deeply bloodshot. Her brown smock is cearing 
down the middle. She is bent by the weight of her 
shopping bags. She comes impermissibly close, leaning a 
bag against my leg and eyeing my red shirt. I smell urine 
coming from her. She glances at me apologetically as she 
touches, then fondles, the left shirt cuff. She looks 
greedily at the material, then up at me with long-suffering 
eyes and says, "I'd like this for my son," nodding a few 
times for emphasis and smiling with strange hopefulness. 

I arrive at the corner of Montgomery and Pine, 
surrounded by moving walls of business suits. Yet the 
open brown hand reaches out to me alone. The skinny 
dark man moves his lips frenetically and only tortured 
bursts of sound escape. His hair is greasy reddish-brown. 
He wears purple pants. He is frighteningly thin. His 
mouth shakes more than it speaks, a stuttering foghorn. 
"Sa — sa — sir" His hand shakes hard in front of me, his 
eyes try to steady themselves to meet mine. "Sa— sir— wa 
— wa— wou — ha — ha— ha— hav— si — so— so— so— som- 
som— mo— mo— mon— mon— mon" He vibrates pain- 
fully. I'd just been in a thick crowd; now I'm alone, facing 
the man and blocked from escape by a spiteful convoy of 
cars. "Plah — plah — puh — sah — pie— sa— sa— sa — sa— sa 
— sar— sar— pie — sir" Drops of saliva slip over his lower 
lip; I shake my head and look away. 

I could become the Old Garbage Man in 25 years if I 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



29 



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PROCESSED WORLD #15 




ontgomery Street morning smells good in a new 
grey suit, white shirt and tie, attache case and a full 
wallet. Tips of the skyscrapers cut through the 
rolling pink-white clouds into blue. People hurry, brush 
by, excuse themselves with automatic smiles. Howling 
young messengers speed old bicycles recklessly through 
packed intersections. The city wakens and bustles to its 
responsibilities. 

On the last block before the office, I picked up speed 
and almost knocked him over, the little old man who stood 
suddenly before me as if dropped from a space-ship, 
pleading in a voice low but hoarse, "Ya got a buck for 
food?" I stammered, rushed by without answering, and 
looked back to see him staring at me, hand still out. He 
was old enough to be my father, pure white hair, red skin, 
old blue pants torn and hanging, beard grown long and 
aimless, blood hardening under his left eye. I felt a chill 
and, still looking backwards, crashed into a garbage can. 
Regaining my balance, I touched my leg where the pain 
was. The day felt already disordered. I took the rest of the 
way to the office slowly. 

A few blocks from home I often meet a small woman 
who travels with her bags. She gives the impression of 
age, with the thick lines that fill her face, and her grey 
scraggly hair, but I'm told she is not more than 40. Her 
bags are old paper shopping bags that are tearing at their 
handles. They are overfull; clothes and papers are always 
falling out onto the sidewalk. Her feet, with their large 
purple veins, are visible through gaping holes in her 
sneakers. A sick-looking terrier follows her everywhere. 



She stops to window-shop at garbage containers and 
shopping center dumpsters. I look at her, trying to take 
her in before she notices me. That day it's too late; she 
adjusts her waddle and approaches me. Her little blue 
eyes are deeply bloodshot. Her brown smock is cearing 
down the middle. She is bent by the weight of her 
shopping bags. She comes impermissibly close, leaning a 
bag against my leg and eyeing my red shirt. I smell urine 
coming from her. She glances at me apologetically as she 
touches, then fondles, the left shirt cuff. She looks 
greedily at the material, then up at me with long-suffering 
eyes and says, "I'd like this for my son," nodding a few 
times for emphasis and smiling with strange hopefulness. 
I arrive at the corner of Montgomery and Pine, 
surrounded by moving walls of business suits. Yet the 
open brown hand reaches out to me alone. The skinny 
dark man moves his lips frenetically and only tortured 
bursts of sound escape. His hair is greasy reddish-brown. 
He wears purple pants. He is frighteningly thin. His 
mouth shakes more than it speaks, a stuttering foghorn. 
"Sa— sa — sir" His hand shakes hard in front of me, his 
eyes try to steady themselves to meet mine. "Sa— sir— wa 

— wa — wou — ha — ha— ha— hav— si — so— so— so— som— 
som — mo— mo— mon — mon — mon" He vibrates pain- 
fully. I'd just been in a thick crowd; now I'm alone, facing 
the man and blocked from escape by a spiteful convoy of 
cars. "Plah — plah — puh — sah — pie— sa — sa — sa— sa— sa 

— sar— sar— pie — sir" Drops of saliva slip over his lower 
lip; I shake my head and look away. 

I could become the Old Garbage Man in 25 years if I 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



29 





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30 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 




by Bob McGlynn, a.k.a. The Enigmatic Emissary 

(opinions expressed here are mine and not that of 
any group or organization of messengers) 

e was riding his bike on 46th toward Broadway. Up 

ahead was an illegally double-parked bus going in 

reverse, and across from the bus was a car that was 

pulling out of a parking lot, ready to enter 46th. The biker 

had the right of way but signaled the car anyway to let her 

know he would be proceeding on. The car driver 

accelerated, and the biker was caught between the 

forward motion of the car and the reversing bus. His body 

was crushed and he lost one leg immediately in a pool of 

blood. The cops showed up but basically did nothing. They 

didn't even fill out an accident report. They let the driver 

go. It was another biker who called the ambulance and 

found out the guy's name before he lost consciousness. 

The cops were white; the driver was white and was 

seemingly drunk. The biker was Black. ..and a NYC 

bicycle messenger."* 

* a true story 

PROCESSED W0RLD*15 



I remember once asking at a meeting of 50 bike 
messengers, "has anyone here not had an accident?" No 
one raised their hands. 

Such is the reality of bicycle messengering beneath the 
human interest stories which romanticise "those noncon- 
formist free spirits, going for the big bucks" and/or 
condemning us for murderous wild riding, "law 
breaking," "bad attitudes,'' "mental retardation," etc. 

I find that many peoples' overcuriosity about bike 
messengers borders on the neurotic. "You do that!?... 
Wow..." or (jealously) "Well you've got some freedom 
but you can't do it all your life you know." Perhaps they 
want/need a little of that "free spirit" stuff: the relative 
frontier of the open street vis-a-vis the unnatural enclosed- 
ness of 9 to 5 land can be quite intriguing with its danger 
and autonomy. 

I'm going to concentrate on my own experience as a 
bike courier, although there are many types of 
messengers, primarily foot messengers, truckers, MC's 
(motorcyclists), and your occasional skateboarder or roller 
skater. 

Bikers work mostly for messenger companies that 
specialize in messengering, although some companies 
(say in the film industry) employ their own in-house 
bikers. ■,-, 



What we do ib simple, we ride to one 
place, pick up ('p u ' in our lingo) a 
letter, package, whatever, put it in a bag 
strapped around our back, and deliver it 
to another place. We get most jobs by 
continuously calling up our company 
dispatcher who directs us to the next 
assignment The alternative if you feel 
like saving phone money (we aren t 
reimbursed for phone calls, although 
many clients let us use their phones for 
free), is to go back to the company to get 
assigned more work, but that's normally 
ineflicienl. It we're lucky, we'll get a few 
jobs at a time — if things are slow, we'll 
gel them one at a time, or none We get 
paid mostly on both a piece rate and 
commission basis. We get paid per job 
and gel paid a percentage of the job cost 
i e what the client is charged) So if ihe 
average minimum cost for a midtown 
pickup and delivery is about $5.50, and 
the average commission is 50"", then we 
make $2.75 for that job. Many compan- 
ies have additional costs added on for ex- 
tra distance traveled ("zones"), size and 
weight of pickup (oversize), waiting time 
(if the p.u. isn't ready when we get 
there), etc. Some of us make another 
5-10% on rain or snow days. If we kill 
ourselves and ride hard and fast without 
breaks, a number of us can make a 



Xife '<h4fell 



1982 by Matt Groening 



generalized average of about $9 an hour, 
but others, who are newcomers or who 
aren't so lucky or adept, make $5.00 an 
hour. There are also slow periods when 
everyone is making shit. Legendary 
stories about how we're all making $100 
a day ain't true. And I've never met 
anyone that's clearing $18,000 a year 
(not that some lone lucky maniac isn't 
pulling that). Ya gotta take breaks in this 
business (plus we have to cover bike 
repairs and all other expenses related to 
the job). Last but not least, we are (on 
paper) "Independent Contractors": 
meaning we are "our own bosses," and 
not employees. More on that BULLSHIT 
later. 

Bicycle messengering began as a new 
industry somewhere around 1972. It was 
started by my first boss, who later got 
forced out in a scandal where he was 
illegally charging us for workers' 
compensation and then pocketing the 
money for his coke habit. His wife took 
the company over— (She was formerly a 
biker who worked for and then married 
him — and then divorced him — Yo, Dal- 
las in NYC!. There's a couple of 
thousand of us, almost exclusively male, 
60% Black and Hispanic (mostly Black), 
40% White (years ago I'd say it was 
more like 50-50), average ages 18-late 
20s. We do have our handful of 50-70 
year old heroes, and as the years go by, 






^yu^x 












32 



there's an increasing amount of "old- 
ies"— people who stick with it year after 
year getting into their late 20s and early 
30s. 

In general many of us do fit the 
outlaw-counterculture-street person 
image (with no apologies from us), that 
we're either romanticized or condemned 
for. A lot of us wouldn't be caught dead 
working in an office or factory (that's our 
preference — we ain't the snobs!) and 
biking is an easy place to find work. The 
scene is extremely transitory, companies 
are incessantly hiring, plus they overhire 
"to keep themselves covered" which 
fucks everyone, especially the newcom- 
ers because there's less work to go 
around. On the other hand it's often 
the only gig in town — no one else is 
hiring — so we end up with a crowd of 
poor types trying to make a buck and 
also some arty and intellectual sorts who 
can't make any bread at their profession. 

All in all there's a great deal of 
camaraderie among us as the joints are 
passed and tools are shared — it is 
especially apparent when we rush to the 
side of a biker that's been hurt in an 
accident in this bohemia of the streets. 
The hellos exchanged in elevators, the 
whistles, the bikes, their speed, the 
nicknames, dread locks, colorful or torn 
clothes, sleek biking clothes, grimy and 
sweaty faces, fingerless gloves, and the 
superficial command of the day definite- 
ly makes bikers a "cool" group. The 
City is "ours" as we have an aura of 
strength that lacks of any trace of 
uneasiness or intimidation; we know who 
we are and where we are going and for 
this we reap a type of "respect." People 
will "stand aside" as we flash in and out 
of offices. 

On the other hand, biking can be a 
grueling fuck of a job: dealing with the 
traffic, weather, cops, stolen bikes or 
bike parts, stuck up office workers and 
bosses, bus tailpipe in our faces, 
pollution, discrimination ("Are you a 
messenger? Please sign in before taking 
the elevator"), painful loads, exhaus- 
tion, and the accidents we all eventually 
have. The "Independent Contractor" 
status imposed by the companies is a 
joke. By claiming we are not employees, 
they don't have to worry about workers 
compensation or health plans, unem- 
ployment insurance, paid sick days 
(we're sort of prone to things like colds, 
sore throats, etc.), paid personal days 
(maybe our work is kind of hard and we 
need breaks once in a while?), holiday 
pay, etc., etc. Additionally, it makes us 
responsible for all job related gear and 
expenses like our bikes, bags, locks, 
tools, rain/snow gear, bike repairs and 
phone calls It's a legalistic fiction and 
ruse since the real social relationship we 
have with the companies is like that of 
any other boss/worker situation. On the 
other hand the game is a plus for us 

PR0CESSEDW0RLD#15 



because they don't take taxes out of 
our paychecks, and our work expenses 
are tax deductible (although I don't know 
of any bikers that keep track of their 
phone calls!). We are not off the books 
though, as our companies file our wages 
and we're required to figure out and pay 
our taxes like everyone else. But it does 
leave the outlaws among us with some 
fun opportunities that the State and Feds 
are well aware of. For their own oppor- 
tunistic reasons, they are trying to 
abolish the Independent Contractor 
bit and are battling 
out that gray 
legal area 
with the 
companies. 

After all, if 
couriers don't pay 
their "dues," how 
will Ronnie and Nancy 
be able to afford to eat?! 



So in 1982 along comes Creitzer with a 
vengeance, and the process of formu- 
lating a bill to regulate bikers began. 
Some of the original proposals were 
totally bizarre. They included the 
creation of a wholesale new bureaucracy 
to license and regulate all bikers, shit 
like having messengers pay $1 ,000 ( ! ) for 
a license, requiring us to have large 
identification signs attached to "the 
baskets" on either side of our bikes 



I remember once 



Messengers Organize Resistance 

No messengers ever knew any of this 
shit was going on, but some of the 
bosses were in on the proceedings. They 
were opposed to the regulations because 
they didn't want the added bureaucracy 
of keeping a trip record, they would in all 
probability be the ones to have to issue 
the ID cards, etc., and they didn't 
need their business getting 
screwed up because their 
workers were being 



_ _ _ t , t stopped by the cops 

asking at a meeting of 50 bike messengers, ™ d ,s^5^ 
'has anyone here not had an accident?' monlh[l ^lZtZ 

before the City Council vote, 

No one raised their hands. ' noticed a news p*p er article 



City Government Decides to Regulate 

Last but not least is our problem with 
the city where our "coming of age" 
comes in. The spark (for the city) started 
when Councilwoman Carol Creitzer was 
almost hit by a biker. (She was unsure 
whether it was 2 messenger or not.) Now 
good old Carol is your prototypical snob, 
just the kind of person your biker loves 
to hate, and in this situation, the 
visa-versa was very important; she 
began a crusade to get bikers regulated 
and licensed. The climate was certainly 
ripe — it's clean up and control time in 
America. 

In the context of an increasingly 
gentrified NYC, clean up and control 
also meant a few local specifics such as: 
restricting food vendors (from whom the 
working class gets a relatively cheap and 
quick lunch) from midtown Manhattan 
and other parts of NYC, further regu- 
lation of cabbies that would have put 
uniforms on them — and of course — get- 
ting those rowdy messengers (there are 
other things of course, like NYC cops 
cleaning up graffiti by beating to death 
graffiti artists like Michael Stewart). 

As an aggregate we messengers mess 
with the clean-cut sensibilities of the 
new "for the rich only" urbanization. It 
was bicycle messengers out of that trio, 
though, that ended up losing. This was 
due in part to the fact that messengers 
weren't organized. Organization is dif- 
ficult because of our scattered "factory" 
of the streets" atomization. We were 
easy to pick on by politicians who wanted 
to score political points with consti- 
tuencies whose prejudicial popular wis- 
dom (fed by media distortion and the 
pols) had us pegged as crazies who 
unendingly mow down innocent civil- 
ians. 



(What a gem! The last time I saw anyone 
with wire baskets was in 1966 in the 
suburbs. No one has them in our 
industry!), and forcing bike couriers to 
keep a log of all their trips. Eventually 
the bill the City Council would vote on 
was: 

1) We'd have to carry a special ID card 

2) We'd have to have a license plate on 
our bikes 

3) We'd have to wear a uniform jacket 
or T-shirt with our company's name 
and our license number 

4) The companies would have to keep 
a record of our trips 

Criminal penalties would be applied: 
$100-250 fine and/or 15 days in jail for 
not complying. 

fc|ne 

Minute 
Manager 




on my company's office wall 
concerning the regulations. I knew 
my boss taped it up and asked her 
what the story was. She started bragging 
that she'd been fighting it all along with 
a "where were you guys" attitude. I 
clued her in that we were never notified 
of anything by anyone. But so much for 
that bull — it was panic time! 

I immediately booked out to a phone 
and called a biker friend to get some 
organizing going; the messenger insur- 
rection had begun! A bright pink leaflet 
by "Rough Riders" was issued entitled 
"WAR!! -CITY COUNCIL VS. BIKE 
MESSENGERS" explaining what was 
happening and calling for a meeting. 
Fifty workers came to this meeting from 
a group that's always been accused of 
being "too individualistic" and "utterly 
unorganizable." The "Independent 
Couriers Association" (ICA) was born 
that night ("Rough Riders" lost out as a 
name — oh well, too bad) which would be 
non-exclusionary; all messengers (foot, 
truck, etc.) would be welcome as would 
company office workers. But because of 
emergency circumstances regarding bi- 
kers, the flavor of organizing would orbit 
around us. Structurally the ICA was 
loose and democratic with a core of the 
most interested (people who regularly 
did the shit work, went to all meetings, 
etc.). Women played a role out of pro- 
portion to their small numbers in the 
bike messenger force. Over the next few 
weeks, we planned and did the works: 
we issued petitions, had phone-in cam- 
paigns and wrote letters to the mayor, 
City Council, and media — we demon- 
strated, lobbied, leafletted, held press 
conferences and chaotic "war-party" 
meetings of 50-100 bikers in the middle 
of Greenwich Village's Washington 
Square Park. 

The heat was on; the cops were 
harassing the crap out of us — enforcing 
chickenshit laws to the max like ticketing 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



33 



us for not having bells (Gimme a break — 
a loud "yo" or a whistle will do it, 
nobody needs the distraction of taking a 
hand off a brake to ring a bell no one 
may hear) or not bearing to the edge of 
traffic (the most dangerous place for us 
since people open car doors which we 
crash into— being "doored" — pedestri- 
ans walk in front of us from in between 
parked trucks where we can't see them 
(crash) etc., etc.), and most importantly, 
for going through red lights and the 
wrong way down streets. Many stories 
circulated about bikers getting ticketed 
for laws they didn't break, getting 
beaten up by the cops, and snagged by 
special police traps set up around mid- 
town. Black couriers were getting it 
worse, and eventually we issued a 
special police complaint form for bikers 
to fill out. The media, of course, was 
uniformly opposed to us and backed the 
law. 

Ostensibly the reason for the proposed 
bill was to help identify us if we hurt 
someone. It was also meant to deter us 
from busting red lights and booking the 
opposite way on one way streets, since if 
caught, we'd either have "proper ID" to 
get summoned (as opposed to giving a 
phony name and then ripping up the 
ticket), or else we'd have to pay stiff 
penalties. It all sounded sooo reasonable 
to a culture drowning in 
bureaucracy 
and 



servility. To us it was an unnecessary, 
unworkable and abusive affront. 

Why were we singled out to carry a 
special apartheid-like ID? The law did 
not concern all bikes, but only commer- 
cial bike riders (which besides us would 
also include delivery people from 
Chinese restaurants, drug stores, gro- 
ceries, etc. — but clearly these laws 
would not be enforced against them) and 
was therefore discriminatory. The issue 
of hitting people was bullshit. We do 
often ride wild (we have to to make a 
buck), but hurting anyone is a rarity — 
we're the "pros" out there while your 
normal biker is not. Statistics backed us 
up that we were involved in few 
collisions and they don't say who's fault 
those accidents were. We know damn 
well most accidents are the pedestrians' 
fault (The New York Times that opposed 
us admitted that in an article). Stories 
abound about "those crazy riders, one of 
them almost hit me the other day!" — the 
key word (for us) being "almost." 
Bicycle messengers are like any of the 
rest of the "controlled chaos" of NYC's 
cabs, cars, pedestrians, etc.; we gotta 
get to where we're goin', and fast! , with 
the inter-hostility and danger among us 
all being mutual. Our position was: Hey, 
if a messenger hurts someone, 
let him/her be dealt with 



like anyone else in a similar situation. 

All counter arguments against us were 
in the realm of "What if" — what if we 
break a light, hit a pedestrian and kill 
them? Well how about "What if a 
pedestrian breaks a light, jay-walks in 
front of a courier, the courier swerves 
over but it's into a racing truck?" Should 
jay-walking be forcibly outlawed? Should 
pedestrians have IDs tatooed on to their 
foreheads? Perhaps midtown should be 
cleared of everyone. Both the light 
breaking biker and pedestrian have the 
same attitude— "give us a break, 
it's no big deal. 
Crowded, 
fast- 
paced 
urbani- 




34 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



zation is a sick unfortunate fact, and 
those of us stuck in it basically do the 
best we can with the marginal inconven- 
ience we cause each other 

The uniform was the most disgusting 
thing; shove it we said, we are not 
prisoners or slaves (and if there were a 
license plate with the same info, why 
have it twice?) What if we forgot our 
uniform or ID card one day or our plate 
got stolen — should we get busted for 
that? 

It would also clearly be unworkable 
and chaotic. There were no provisions in 
the bill for any central issuing agency or 
coordinating center. 
How would 
cops 




shouldn't we be able to do it?" Being 
prevented from doing so was our worst 
fear, and the law could definitely put a 
crimp in our style. Freedom of the road 
was a necessity since time and money 
were synonymous. 

In all probability, though, the war 
against us was that type of political show 
that emerges every so often (headlines 
screaming "Crackdown on Pushers!" 
"Crackdown on Cabs!", one columnist 
labeled us "The Killer Bikes"), and 
eventually the cops would pay attention 
to more important stuff and basically 
leave us alone (thereby the whole thing 
being a waste of 

everyone's . -„.=\»,V ! */V >v //f ' 

time). .vsv'i*' 



HW*" 



So then came the process of hammer- 
ing out the specifics for the regulations 
like who would issue the license plates, 
what color would they be and other 
nonsense The ICA demanded to be in on 
thai meeting, and that was accepted. (I 
had reservations about being in on my 
own "self-managed" oppression, but I 
wanted to observe the show.) In atten- 
dance was the ICA, company bosses, 
and reps from the mayor's office, Dept. 
of Transportaiton and the cops. 

Then the fun began. The people from 
the city didn't know anything about how 
messengering works, and it was quite a 
laugh watching them trying to figure 
>>-. -•■ • how to implement a turkey 

of a law that would 
have no central 
coordination. 
For 






s/£('iv"- m ft / A nave no cer 




% 



wh 
messenger 
and who's not? Would 
they summons someone on a bike 
who didn't have the license, etc., but 
Wasn't a messenger? If they tried to 
summons a messenger, what would stop 
the messenger from saying she/he 
wasn't one? Although most messengers 
carry similar bags and have a certain 
look, there's no way a cop couid reaily 
prove whether someone was really a 
courier on the spot What if we're out 
riding one day with our standard courier 
bag but were not actually working that 
day and we get stopped? What about the 
person who's not a courier but digs our 
bags and carries one — will they be 
stopped by the cops for not having a 
license? This opened up a big area for 



j|"We owe*, 
f?;^ nothing to a society* ;^ 
that would burn out its young 
, on danger-ridden streets in an f#£- 
envelope of polluted dirty!*** 
j^f orange haze no matter 
*I*how "hip" our job 
;^may appear £/ 



% 



Practical Subversion 



V 



But back to the City Council. Pre- 
dictably they passed the bill with only 
one abstention, Miriam Friedlander (a 
supposed "progressive," she later sup- 
ported it when the bill was partially 
modified) and one no vote^ 
The bill then went on for Mayor 
Koch's signature — but there was a 
surprise on that day. Fifty angry bikers 
showed up (while losing work time) to 
testify against the bill. Koch did some- 
thing he never does; he postponed 



to be.": 



pohc fas< ism and being that a lot of us Slg ning it, which was a moral victory in 
•ire longhairs Blacks, etc, we didn't the fray it nothing else. We succeeded in' 
warn the fuzz having an extra excuse to setting the tone and atmosphere for the, 
tuck with us We also tried to make day . we put the city in the embarassmg 
1111,1 cause Wlth bicycle clubs but position of being the bully picking on an 
they didn't show too much interest. ass busting, hard-working, "defense- 

Our most militant argument was: WE less ' group of young people. Soon after 
IUST WEREN'T CONNA DO IT 1 And as of course, he did sign it with one 
for the obvious law-breaking stuff— provision watered down; the criminal 
going against the lights and the wrong penalties for not having the ID card 
way down the streets — the most vocal would be dropped, and the fine for tnat 
amongst us said it quite plainly: "Why reduced to $50 — big deal, right? 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 



Archie 
Spigner, 
Slack conserv- 
ative who made 
like he dug "the 
hard-working under- 
dog." Being one of the 
only City Council 3rd World 
people, he was awake enough to 
know that Blacks would be set up 
or harassment, and he brought in 
the NAACP to back us Political op- 
portunism being what it is though, we 
never heard from him after the bill 
signing — which leads me to a dig I just gotta 
gel in. Big deal City Councilwoman, Ruth 
Mcssmger, was a prime backer of the bill. 
Messinger is a member of the Democratic 
5o< ialists of America and a darling and a halt 
with the mainstream "Left" in NYC. I 
love how conservatives like Spigner can 
act more hip than "democratic socialists" 
^-iwho have no more problem legislating 
SsTor l«J. without conferring with us even!) 
~ ' ^rr^^shit on the working class than 
ffl^fo ^{j|jjg^Slalinists do with using rifle 
butts to get their way I 
uc-ss we re one "cause" she had no interest in 



35 



instance, the law said the license was to 
only have three digits. Add on to that the 
fa< t that there would be no central list to 
refer to, and you'd have a lot of bikers 
with the same number 1 Who should be 
. ('sponsible for getting the plates, signs, 
and ID cards, the companies or the 
riders? Were we employees? Were we 
Independent Contractors? In a major 
victory before the negotiations started 
they dropped the uniform bit — but we'd 
have to have some sort of "sign" on our 
backs 

We asked (satirically) "How are you 
gonna contact all those thousand of 
Chinese restaurants and groceries and 
tell them and their tens of thousands of 
commercial bike delivery people about 
this?" It was good watching the fools 
enter territory of which they knew not 
The police lieutenant was the best as he 
kept quiet, slouched crumped up in his 
chair, chain smoking and smiling at the 
circus — "Hey lieutenant, do you think 
we can store the trip records (records for 
around 15-20 million jobs a year!) in a 
police warehouse or something?" "Yea, 
uh, I guess we got room in a corner 
somewhere " 

Because the whole thing was so dumb 
and because we used our brains, we 
managed to get important modifications 
and concessions. Also, the plate under 



our seats would not be the large size the 
city planned on which would have been 
hell for our thighs and crotches as we 
mounted and dismounted. It could be as 
small as possible, as long as the 
company name (or abbreviation) and 
license number can fit in one inch letters 
and numbers (did any of the jerks ever 
ride a bike?) The sign on our back could 
simply be another license plate attached 
to our bag. We would't back down on our 
insistence though, that the whole "sign" 
idea had to go. The city said "they'd 
consider it" (bullshit). We also demand- 
ed the cops have a meeting with us to 
discuss the way they were fucking with 
us bad That "uppityness" astounded 
them' They agreed to "arrange a 
meeting" (more bullshit). We also 
managed to get the implementation of 
the law postponed. The most important 
thing won was a method of circum- 
venting the thing altogether (Sorry 
readers, for security reasons I'll have to 
ask you to use your imaginations) — we 
walked out of the meeting smirking. 




And so the charade went into effect 
January 85 in all its predictability. The 
heat from the cops had already cooled 
(ill . and the deadline for complying with 
the law came and went with zero fanfare. 
I'd say 75% plus of bikers aren't 
complying Many are refusing and 
others work at companies that aren't 
even supplying the ID and stuff. The 
maionty of those that do, do it only 
partially — they'll have the plate but not 
the sign, or visa-versa. Some will have a 
plate but keep it in their bag I saw one 
plate that was on backwards! 

The Song Remains The Same 

Bikers remain the same, busting 
lights and tearing down the street the 
wrong way, hopping sidewalks and 
riding in the (safe) middle of traffic. 
There's been no mad rush by us to install 
"bells' on our "killer bikes." The pave- 
ment ahead remains our prey Cone are 
only the screaming headlines against us 
A terrorized" city is back to the old 
grind cursing us only under the breath as 
we do them amid the hassle and hustle 
but general harmlessness (as regards 
sheer safety) of it all, just trying to 
survive in a speeded-up world not made 
by or for the majority of any of us And 
please — if you've read an inference into 
this article of "Fuck the cabbies," 
Fuck the pedestrians," the way others 
say "Fuck the bikers," it wasn't meant 
Not that bikers don't engage in the same 
infantile prejudices that others direct 
against us But mane hatreds and pre- 
judices get us nowhere The point is to 
look out tor and love each other 
dummies' 

It's good to see a nicely working 
dialectic sometimes. The bike regula- 
tions that were meant to repress us 
provided the catalyst for the only 
sustained bicycle messenger organiza- 
tion ever The ICA Some prior attempts 
included couriers at one company that 
was overhirmg too much trying to 
organize a union. That attempt fell apart 
in a few weeks. The Service Employees 
Intern uional Union tried it on a 
city-wide basis some time ago, but alter 
some months that too faded. Of recent 
memory is the Teamsters Some mes- 
sengers who had a Teamster visit were 
glad when the amazingly stereotypical 
mob type character left (reportedly he 
reterred to the onl\ woman courier there 
.is "honey" and said you tellas don't 
mind it I (all her honey, do you?" to 
which one guts\ gu\ said "don't vou 
think vou should ask her?"). 

The word union is certainly scary to 
the bosses, but so do some bikers have 
problems with it I hey fear it would 
mean the loss ot the Independent 
contractor status, and they'd have to 
late the regimentation ot taxes being 

PROCESSED WORLD #15 



pulled from their paychecks, they'd have 
to punch in and out (because some 
companies are lax now about your 
comings and goings and taking days off) 
and no company will pay an hourly wage 
similar to what can be made on com- 
mission. Besides unions have a bad 
name for being self-serving authorita- 
rian bureaucracies — just the thing that 
many messengers dig escaping. There 
are examples though of other types of 
"Independent Contractors" that have 



ers comes in. Capital is finding it much 
more efficient to bypass and circumvent 
the sometimes inefficiency of the Post 
Office and use the immediacy of such as 
bike messengers, private package car- 
riers, and machinery that can zap text 
and graphics from one locale to another 
in seconds (Ironically less work — in 
terms of increased speed, efficiency and 
agility — often means more work here as 
peddling is harder than hoofing it, and 
because we can do more jobs per hour, 



points of a future rebellion against this 
dollar- and object-centric society, and for 
a people- and life-oriented one? Imagine 
a coalition of the street (couriers) and 
office (secretaries, computer program- 
mers, etc.) — Yo! It's the Revolution! 
OK, OK, so it's silly fantasy, but such 
wild imaginings have a habit of 
becoming very real in history a la France 
'68, Poland's Solidarity, or say Black 
insurrection in South Africa. If the farm- 
workers out west could get organized, 



"Bicycle messengers as a group aren 't exactly your young Republi- 
can types and would make an interesting addition to a backward, 
comatose and dying American labor movement. 



successfully bargained with employers 
without losing their status. In any case 
most all couriers agree that we need our 
own group; we have a legitimate basis to 
organize for our welfare. 

So the ICA lives on Whether they can 
get the messenger regulations junked 
remains to be seen. They hold regular 
meetings, publish a newsletter and are 
concerned with everything from potholes 
to the lack of workers' compensation 
some riders are faced with. A grant has 
been received, a messenger concert/ 
bash is planned and the ICA has even 
gotten some bike shops to give discounts 
to its card carrying members The 
"unorganizable" have remained or- 
ganized an ironic anomaly in the age of 
Reagan ..... _ 

rheorefical Insurrectional Addendum 

, ...Bicycle messengers as a group aren't 
c\.n tl\ your young Republican types and 
would make an interesting addition to a 
backward, comatose and dying Ameri- 
can labor movement Delivery services 
seem to be a growing industry amid (he 
Adhering ul your more tr.iduion.il blue 
collar staples such as steel information 
as su( h has become a highly valued 
commodity and bicycle couriers, along 
with others such as computer workers, 
make up some of the labor of that 
( ircuitry The narrowing of gaps in space 
by speeding up time is what makes your 
messenger on a ten-speed hurtling 
across midtown or your relative Federal 
Lxpress efficiency attractive to a capita- 
lism pathologically hungry for profits 
that depends on getting things done as 
quickly as possible. This is where the 
pivotal importance of information pro- 
cessors, circulators and transport work- 




then we are gonna do more jobs per 
hour. The same goes for the secretary 
and the word processor vs the secretary 
and typewriter — because stuff can be 
typed quicker and more efficiently with 
the former, then that secretary is gonna 
be loaded with that much more work.) 

That which is so important to the 
circuitry of Capital can also be its short 
circuitry. Neither messenger companies 
nor their clients can store away mes- 
senger runs for instance, like a coal 
company might hoard coal in anticipa- 
tion of a strike Any job action by 
couriers would have an immediate 
debilitating effect on those concerned. 
We can cut power off at its source and 
sever completely the lives of transmis- 
sion . -. "*■•••. 
"' Why not ? We owe nothing'to a society 
that would burn out its young on danrjer- 
ridden streets in an envelope of polluted 
dirty orange haze no matter how "hip" 
our |ob may appear to be (the world of 
Appearances being what helps con and 
control us as we unendingly accept our 
daily oppressions) Death in industry or 
death in war — these are the choices 
America the Beautiful offers. Who the 
Kick needs it? Wouldn't it be interesting 
it ignorant" and "unorganizable" 
messengers might be among the ignition 



why couldn't we? (Our social statuses 
are quite similar in ways.) Still, I have to 
smile everytime someone says to me 
"Ya know, it'll probably be the bicycle 
messengers who'll overthrow the fuck- 
ing government." But what if...? 

In the meantime you can catch me 
plowing blacktop — and hating and loving 
every second of it. 




A spec ial thanks to the 
San I ran< is< o bike messengers 
10 answered our call for graphics for 
Road Warriors." We always welcome more 
contributions, so send em in! 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



37 



OCOTLAN 




Mulatto girl on the bus to Ocotlan 

slowly reading the romantic 

comic-book novel about 

the pale poor pretty young woman 

who advances in the world of the city 

through clever secretarial skills 

till a rich executive falls in love with her. 

Brujo in the plaza of Ocotlan 

in a white cowboy shirt and black aura 

selling holy crosses in white envelopes: 

you soak the cross in water overnight 

sprinkle the corners of your house, 

if anyone wishes you evil 

it returns double unto him. 

Dancer with his hands tied behind him 
led to a tree and carved in stone 
pierced with obsidian for pleasure 
song-scroll issuing from his mouth like smoke, 
like the call-letters of the revolution. 

Young soldier with a machine-gun 

guarding the crossroads, 

rags of plastic whip in the wind 

from every thorn, a thin trail 

worn by bare feet leads from the highway 

to the shacks of the very poor. 

John Oliver Simon 



MELANCHOLY BABY FUNNIES 

My name is Eddy Paris 

Eddy Paris in Newstown 

Because i walk around the dark canyons of streets 

Surrounded by towers of television sets 

Eddy Parris in Televisiontown 

In all the skyscrapers all the windows are television sets 

And all i've got is a coat, five bucks 

And a cigarette 

But somehow sometime it's always my show 
I give the news, i do the weather 
I report the basketball scores from Mundelein 
I do an editorial on the Shah of Edgewater 

The city seems no more than a billion windows to me 

A billion projections of the broken down 

Facets of my prim ambitions 

Your Eddy Big Paris Brother with an eye up/on your sleeve 

And when it's not me it's just somebody else 
It really doesn't matter 

Look! even now there's a documentary of some fetish-suckling 
pre-industrial, mud-a-mistic 

tribe in cold borneo 

on TV 

But the streets are just as 'laissez faire' there 

As here, and just as thick and tense 

Or deep and dense 

Why dont you just choose your window then live in it? 

Sincerely yours, 
Edward Paris 



IN NAKED CITY 

1) Death isn't funny 

2) Orgasms are boring 

3) Someone's been reading my mail 
the heart races 

the skin flushes 
the skin squirms inside itself 
like a billion nematodes 

The smug face contains respectively 
bloom 
& death 

I lit a cigarette 

& thought about the tube steak getting lathered 

in alleyways 

in backrooms of naked city 

In naked city 

something spreads from the groin like an oil slick. 

I pretend to read a magazine 
i'm really driven 

to a frenzy by my wilted bedsheets 
& the rhapsodic woman-image 

raven-haired 

she rides 
on my hips with half 
closed eyes. 

Shall i masturbate? 

with a cut of wet meat tonight? 

or should i use cold cream? 

should i squirt it on the wall? 
or catch it in my hand? 

Shall i smear it all over my skin? 

It's fun, 

it's like riding a mule. 
Will i come 
in convulsions 

that crumble my bones? 

It's all in your technique, 

Some will want to splatter their balls 

like coconut shells 

between pavingstones 
& they'll get off only once at that 
in naked city. 

Carl Watson 



JgflOJ^SS 



ED WORLD #15 



A SMILING HERPES 

First 

a little blister on 
my lip 
then 

splitting open to 
deposit its virtue over 
my jaw & 

growing bigger to 
fill with blood & 
scab over 

(every 
three months or so to 
make its ugly 
appearance this 

way) & 
it stays there glorifying 
my face for 

weeks 
broadcasting 
my affliction throughout 
city & state: 

"Take heed!" it wails. 

"This man has herpes! 

His face is a running 

virulence! 

Do not touch!" 



THE BLESSING 

I'm now able to sit up in a chair, 
and on good days I can comb my hair, 
(that is, if someone is helping me). 

There will always be these memories 
of the incident, but to this very day, 
I haven't a single regret. 

Who would have thought that I'd land 
on the back of a Madison Avenue advertising 
executive bending down to pick up a quarter 
he saw lying on the sidewalk! 

Anyone would tell you that the odds of 
surviving a fall from the top of the Empire 
State Building is virtually impossible. But 
here I am, and things couldn't be better! 

I'm now in the employ of the advertising 
agency where the executive used to work. 
His widow and children are all doing fine, 
living quite well off the checks from the 
insurance. 

I'm doing fine, working exclusively with 
my tongue, taking on stamps and envelopes 
at such a rate that my accomplishments are 
getting to be known worldwide. 

There is already talk about turning my 
life into a movie for TV. 

And unlike before, women now smile and 
say hello to me by name... something I've 
been dreaming of all my life! 



Jeffrey Zable 




PAY DAY 

There's only three things in life 
that you need to keep in store: 
What you do, what you're paid 
and what you're paid for 

I went up to heaven 
had to talk to the man 
I walked up to the gate 
and I held out my hand 

I said " I' m here to collect 
my due and my debt" 
He said "I'm sorry kid, 
but that's all that you get" 

I said "But sir, I got 
three kids and a wife" 
(I could not believe 
I had been fired from life) 

"So could you answer one question, 
what was wrong with my work?" 
He said "There weren't nothing wrong 
'cept for one little quirk 

Here, allow me to adjust your brain a little 
There, now doesn't that feel better?" 

I said "Thanks alot" 
and I turned towards the door 
It's strange, I can't remember 
what I came here for 



Valerie Warden 




925 CRPWL 




by Kathleen Hulser 

fhe clock hands are stuck in molasse«. The day 
crawls forward on its knees, me, too, o.i my knees 
with face pushed into the carpet. Red eyes, ripped 
cuticles, parched lips, a succubus in the corporate bosom. 

Here with the Brokers of Record, insurances and rein- 
surances, secondary sales of risk, writs underwritten in 
London and Munich, Los Angeles and Brussels. Risk 
management squares off in the ring with a middle-weight 
claims contender. Dams and dikes put their shoulder to 
disasters. Future picture: an acid rain of litigation: a 
million cyclones, Bhopals, court days and damages. 

The workforce. Men in the sandbox, dirtying their suits 
so cleaners in Westchester and Jersey can send their 
offspring to college. Paper pushers without portfolio, they 
shoulder their brooms and march off to lengthy high-proof 
lunches. Grey cake in the brain, like grey water stuck in 
the drain loop. Vacation days, floating days, sick days, 
personal days, holidays are the Liquid Plumber of the cor- 
poration. 

"Oh say did you see in the New York Times, the shot of 
the panting dog, the lovely murderer's accomplice freed, 
the four figure toilet seat on board The Enterprise?" The 
day's exchanges trickle, a babbling brook of little import 
and many pebbles, words and pleasantries trip 
delightfully down the stream. The wind whistles in the 
towers, echoes in the file cabinets. Designed to soothe 
employees with white noise? Or to drive them in silent 
screams to sealed windows, there to claw at vertical 
blinds, rattle the slats? 



I continue my crawl past miles of business bunions. 
Toes wrapped and strangled in navy blue supp-hose. Toes 
painted and proferred in Italian sandals. Toes curled by 
their room without a view. Toes dreaming of the scrape of 
tree bark, the slimy handshake of seaweed. Toes soon to 
be flayed alive in a high-heeled trudge to the copyroom. 

Two-faced reproduction. Girls play the xerox control 
panel, stacking high copy scores. "Beware of industrial 
sabotage" warns the Employee Heed This sign. A closed 
circuit camera over the boss machine fails to spot the mole 
hiding in the excess paper tray. The mole will make off 
with priceless client lists, "eyes only" memoranda, 
corporate love letters, A to Z tax evasion plans. I cross 
paths with the happily laden mole off to tell the 
competitors, the Russians, Uncle Sam. Off to cash in on 
the free market. Off to confirm the importance of being 
earnest in business. 

I crawl past a flotilla of seats, their hulls stamped in 
code, stenciled in black and red: "Property of K 
Corporation, Inc." The secret crawlers are cryptographers 
reading between the lines. "Rumplestiltskin is my name. 
This way to paradise. Two somersaults to a fine season. 
Seven years of fat and forget the lean." Hieroglyphics are 
refreshers on a long crawl. Good humor magnetizes me, 
I'm trailing a wedding-can train of paper clips. I push 
through the center of a seven-mile reel of staple wire to 
demag myself, creating a current that frizzles databases 
on 40 floors. 

Another world. Soap watchers congregate in the mail- 
room behind the ten-foot corrugated rolls of Softee-send. 
Front desk personnel listen to video radio on tv wrist- 



40 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



watches. Faces and features are remote 
squiggles but domestic trauma squeaks 
loud and clear. Hooked on weepies, the 
soapers join a nationwide synchronous 
moan of communal catharsis. 

Fueling. Pinched waists, narrow 
sleeves on women's suits, high heels, 
slim calves. Secretaries don't eat. "Oh, 
no, thanks, I'm on a diet. My skirts are 
tight, just tea and yogurt for me." But 
all day as I crawl, a rain of crispy crunchy 
junky crumbs hails down on my head. 
Squirreled in file cabinets, desk drawers, 
tote bags are innumerable cello-wrapped 
treats: salted, glazed, BTUed and 
BTAed for freshness, filling empty 
*>ecreurial tummies during empty secre- 
tarial day shifts. The building vibrates 
with a low-level noshing hum, like a 
division of termites munching towards 
Armageddon. Secretaries with pearly 
teeth crunching at 9 am, 11 am, noon 
time, 2, 4 and 6, whisking telltale 
crumbs to the floor, deftly stashing 
Oreos beneath steno-pads, tortilla chips 
behind the typing stand. 

The man by Folon dribbles Beaujolais 
on his tie. Ruddy wrinkles roll from fore- 
head to neck, disappearing into the 
white moat that pens in his jowls. His 
businessman's neck slopes from collar to 
barrel chest and his arms are webbed to 
the elbow. If pushed down a sandpit, he 
would roll like a Michelin on holiday; if 
started down the Alps he would launch 
an avalanche to make the cuckoo-clock- 
ers tell tales for generations. Stuffed on 
cocktail meatballs, chunks of Swiss, 
bite-sized quiche, and beef fondue at 5, 
he jovially proceeds to fettucini alfredo, 
lournedos and baba au rhum at 9. 

Maintenance. Courtesy coffee shoots 
caffeine through sluggish veins every 
morning. I crawl by coffee filter set-ups 
on waxed counters, past shaker jars of 
petroleum distillate that passes for 
morning moo. Loyalty to mid-east client 
oilocracy proved in small, thoughtful 
details. I go right on by to the lunch 
table, past the throbbing toe of the 
coffee lady. No health shoe has room for 
the unruly swellings of service feet. 
She's off her feet, as every morning, 
studying her "Powerful Words" book- 
let. She's absorbed. I wait to hear a 
powerful word deployed. Will a grip on 
"bilateral transaction equilibrium" pro- 
pel her to the top? Will executive pumps 
ease her corns? 

Executive hands wash executive fin- 
gers with executive rings in the 
executive washroom. The sirocco strikes 
the Fast Coast, a droplet-conscious 
municipality hooks up the Hudson to the 
faucets. Executive crud washes execu- 
tive hands. Croakers flap in the soap 
dishes. An eel hugs the urinal head. 

I crawl under lawns of solemn oak, 
scraping my eyebrows on executive desk 



handles. I surface for fresh air, a peep 
out the window. Businessmen scowl as 
they cross the street to avoid hotel 
strikers. Pot and pan reggae bounces off 
the naves of Radio City. Maids and 
busboys, cooks' helpers and dustforces 
stick pins in the old contracts and invoke 
juju mischief on hotel management. As 
mounties ride the picketline, the horses 
ring the Hilton, the Ritz, the Barbizon 
with guest-repellent. Businessmen 
scrape their shoes, and walk on to sit 
with their knishes by scorched ornamen- 
tal pools, lawfully drained. 

TZ^iK^^XK XK .XX XK 



The pool rimsters lick the final sludge 
from lip edges and fingertips. The 
daytide turns towards afternoon. To 
soothe my hands and knees after hours 
of carpet burn, I toboggan down a blind. 
I plot my passage home: aiming high for 
style and comfort. A grey bump under 
desk edge is my ally; an abandoned, not 
just temporarily parked, ball of Double- 
mint provides a practical liaison. Briefly 
wedded to the hardening grey twinner, I 
snuggle on the sole of an elegant pump 
and limo uptown. 



DMC 



ZHJC 



:x k: 



FROM THE BIRTH OF VILLAGES... 



1 




...TO THE BIRTH OF GREEN SPACES. 




x k mr*\ 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



41 



Remembrance 

f^v of 



Temp Past 




The Temp by Brigitte Lozerech, translated from the 
French by Kathrine Talbot, E.P. Dutton, 1984 (orig. 
L'interimaire, pub 1982) Reviewed by D.S. Black. 




herever I go to work as a temp, I take a good look 
around to see whether the staff can use the 
telephone. I watch closely, ask offhand questions, 
make a first attempt to see how people react, then get hold 
of a telephone, not necessarily of my own, but one where I 
can make outside calls in private. They are like the calls 
from a submarine cut off from the world, as I am cut off for 
eight hours a day among people I have nothing in common 
with, at the beck and call of a superior. 

The "Minerva" temporary agency described in The 
Temp, though French, is basically identical to any here. 
Office bosses play the same games with their employees: 
paternalistic abuse; the constant threat of arbitrary termi- 
nation; continual reminders that as a temp one is in a work 
force without rights, treated as though part of a super- 
fluous population. 

What I fear most is to be one of a crowd, an ideology, a 
fashion, a herd pouring out of the same subway station, 
entering identical doors in a row of houses in one street, 
climbing stairs and walking through a door, saying good 
morning to colleagues and sitting down at a desk for eight 
hours. This seems to me so profoundly sad that I refuse to 
be part of it. When I do find myself in this situation it's 
only by chance, and I can say, "I'm only a stand-in. I'm a 
temp. " 

Despite the title, The Temp does not primarily concern 
itself with the modern office and the already well-docu- 
mented lot of those stuck with the mechanical tasks of 



dictation, filing, reception, etc. This book is instead a 
dilation and curettage profile of a person who has settled 
into an obscure half-life of internal exile. Being a temp is 
for her the perfect cover, a faultless way to remain 
publicly silent in the din of the demanding world. She is so 
deep in the abyss, so utterly dehumanized, that she can 
calmly narrate the terror of her ways without a trace of 
self-pity. 

Pointed in its anatomization of the loner, it brings to 
mind another very successful first novel: Sartre's Nausea, 
published 50 years ago. 

I've never been able to understand what's required of 
me, and even today I haven't become part of office life. 
Nothing about it seems important, there's no way in which 
I'm indispensible. Nothing gives me the feeling that 
makes me go home proud and erect. 

The Temp, however, is not without hope, for all its 
occupational gloom. The story is loosely based on the life 
of its author, Ms. Brigitte Lozerech. The eponymous temp 
(also named "Brigitte") is so self-concealed as to seem 
traumatized, which in fact she is, still shellshocked by 
childhood. 

The jobs she has are of remote interest to her; as with 
many office drudges, her real priorities lie elsewhere. The 
extent of her dissociation is unusual, even alarming, to the 
point where her feverish confessions are as rarefied as air 
from an iron lung, or "the calls from the submarine" 
referred to earlier. This book traces her recovering a past 
as painful as any rite of passage; it is the intimate record 



42 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



of a person whose secrets have isolated 
her, but at the same time are all that can 
save her. 

The thought was like a black veil 
falling between me and the future. I was 
unable to envisage the period separating 
childhood from old age, and found it 
impossible to fill the gap. 

Is that why I am a temp? The present 
has caught me unprepared, I never 
planned for it, I've got nothing to fill it 
with. It frightens me. 

As well it should. If growing up wasn't 
agony enough, the present is rife with 
threats, complications — closing in on all 
sides like a tomb. 

Crowing up: large family with indif- 
ferent parents, a father she craved 
greater intimacy with who was preoccu- 
pied with the large things in life he read 
in Le Monde; eight siblings, most of 
them male, most of whom took advan- 
tage of her sexually; a sense of smallness 
that grew over the years so that finally 
the only real world seemed that of the 
written word 

/ would have iked u>have shown her 
something of my own private life, but I 
didn t have one, and since I didn't want 
anyone to know this, I filled the gap with 
words and beguiling phrases. 

Unlike Sartre's Roquentin, she is able 
to draw strength and grow as she writes, 




^though as with everything it's tinged 
; with a mordant self-doubt ("I do nothing 
; but cut myself off and make marks on 
paper"). 

She makes the acquaintance of a sym- 
pathetic publisher — the Great Man — 
\ who critiques her work in a way that does 
; for her what she's missed in ten years of 
•psychoanalysis. 

That she's lived too much outside 
herself is evident right from the start. 
The Great Man calls her on this, per- 
ceiving real talent through her many 
layers of numbness and dissociation. He 
challenges her to settle old accounts, 
come to terms with herself, and thus 
write better. 

To work it out, she has to let long 
suppressed memories surface, and face 
her scar tissue of memory, hazed by the 
years of sexual abuse. She does this 
through writing, while continuing to 
temp. Through literary exorcism, she 
inds a handle on the thing she's kept 
from everyone (including the therapists 
the revolting memory of her lubricous 
youth. In doing so, she makes her "final 
confession], giving birth at last to [the] 
secret " 

These flashes from the past illuminate 
her development as a progression in the 
logic of alienation. As an extreme 
example (or product) of trends in our 

I 




time, the main character and the writer 
in this book— Brigitte, clearly distin- 
guished, at one point, from her model/ 
creator Brigitte Lozerech — finds herself 
perversely perfect for a niche on the 
margins of modern life — a misfit, in 
other words. 

The reader must accept the verdict of 
the Great Man (to which Brigitte 
concurs) that her early works were 
incomplete, scrapbook affairs which 
served only to empower her to her next 
and first successful novel, the book in 
hand, The Temp. 

Ironically, as her writing improves, 
she becomes more of an asset to her 
employer, who subsequently offers her a 
permanent position. When she demurs, 
she is terminated, perhaps for ingrati- 
Lude 

The Great Man challenges her to leave 
the past well enough alone and focus on 
herseli and the present, to attend to the 
spindled, sometimes mutilated film 
through which she sees herself: 

/ c/ s hr.ir you tell i/s what you do. " 
Me? I said. "I don't do anything. 
I m a temp 

He looked at me with interest. "A 
temp,'' he said. That's not nothing. 
Now we're getting somewhere. " 

As she writes the book, she's assailed 
by images from a fragmented past. 



PROCESSED WORLD #15 



43 



It seemed that I still had to learn 
everything about myself and my Hie. I 
had to go back in time, but all around me 
there was nothing but fog. The outlines 
of my brothers and my cousins became 
vague. I could no longer tell them apart 
and saw them only from the waist down. 
It seemed to me as if I saw a film unroll 
itself before me in the fog, a blurred film 
so damaged in parts that yards and yards 
of it were quite useless, and long 
stretches of it were missing. 

To work on her new novel she cuts 
herself off from all traditional ties. She 
moves and does not give her family her 
new address. Her lifestyle as a temp is 
perfectly suited to severing these few 
connections, and with a small advance 
from the Great Man, she can be selective 
about her assignments. 

While she applies herself to "the 
jumbled alphabet of the keyboard" on 
her own terms, she recognizes both the 
occupational and in part deliberate 
tenuousness of all her relationships; in 
every way she is a temp. 

Though her perspective is fearful and 
confined, she writes about il in 
language beautiful and precise; her 
typewriter must be fitted with a 
jeweller's eye off the dissecting table. 
Clinically, she records the fallout levels of 
a nuclear family, and details the familiar 
(though far from trite) denial of herself 
as an individual, thinking reed, in the 
office of today. Temping her way 
through these modern chambers of 
horror makes her conscious and alive— 
among other things, this woman is a 
survivor. 

American readers might not see any 
political relevance to a story of this sub- 
jectivity. One may sympathize with 
Brigitte (and even find her inspiring), 
but to take her as a paradigm for 
emulation will probably occur to few. It 
is certainly extreme for an office worker 
to be so alienated as to have no friends at 
all. And if someone's had a rough child- 
hood, so what? Haven't we all? Creative 
expression is not a form of catharsis 
available to or even desired by all. Since 
Joseph Heller's bleak 1974 novel, Some- 
thing Happened, the drift in mainstream 
American culture has been towards a 
wry, accepting view of "capitalist 
realism" (the classic success story in 
which boy meets bank). The film 9 to 5 
paid lip service to some popular images 
of enlightened reform, but was at core an 
affirmation of what it pretended to 
critique [see PW #7]. 

Americans can't bear too much 
reality. 

The Temp is a stark selfportrait of an 
otherwise heavily armored, closeted 
clerical worker. Her experience issues as 
notes from a low-rise underground on 
the outskirts of Paris. In its lapidary 
perfection, exploring one person's 



psyche, strengths and insecurities, and 
how all this is reflected in her past and 
immediate environment, it falls square 
in the tradition of the European 6/7- 
dungsroman — an effective write of pas- 
sage. 

Whether one temps or not, it is of 
interest more than just as a tale of toil — 
it's a tale of our times, when business is 
business (and there's no business like no 
business). 

When people ask me why I'm still a 
temp though I'm over thirty, I say it's 
because I lack ambition. My only 
ambition is to write this book, to find my 
own truth in it and exorcise my secret. 



Whether or not the book sells, I'll remain 
a temp. 

Is she still a temp? Ms. Lozerech's 
book was an "immediate sensation" and 
#1 bestseller on publication in France, 
three years ago. At least as a temp she 
has writing she "can fall back on." The 
boss that smirked condescendingly when 
she told of her need to write has been put 
in his place. Though parents and bosses 
everywhere are loath to encourage this, 
or any creative outlet, in Brigitte 
Lozerech, we are fortunate to find 
someone whose ambition and talent have 
transmuted the stuff of daily death and 
past pain into true literature. 



"What I fear most is to be one of the crowd, an 
ideology, a fashion, a herd pouring out 
of the same subway station, 
entering identical 




doors 
in a 
row of 
houses in 
one street, 
climbing 
stairs and 
walking through 
a door, saying 
good morning to 
colleagues and 
sitting down 
desk for eight 



♦•;.. » „,»* - ■■""" , •• *Atf'>'!!:s«S mi?>».» »".■*. :**\« *\ T; •'», y«l 4 

V'V'Vm, •""•'" , ;\,i 1 »V>\ •.■v'V\<* i***^*!! 11 v»' Apologies to Carlo Carra, Joan Miro, and " 

&*v»>\* v, V* v '»°rt r *»' , »^"i v^'V.p, """.i v^V-i,'-*"'- Paul Delvaux, whose paintings were collaged for this article - x | 



44 



Processed World, 55 Sutter St. #829, San Francisco, CA, 94104, USA, (415) 495-6823 



$2.50 



250 U.S. Pennies! 
WeAreTheDealin'est!" 




NEW- 
YIRdNIP 
6TING6 



Today's woman isn't satisfied with sneaking 
a smoke on the kitchen porch. She needs a 
cigarette whose image matches the obsessions 
we've engineered for her— from the all-too- 
obvious symbolism of the "extra long" shape to 
the anorexic models we use in our ads. 

• A cigarette like her day at work— lengthy 
yet fast-burning, bland but with a harsh 
aftertaste. 

• A cigarette that seems to ease her 
through the frenzied, smiling boredom 
of the modern office even while it eats 
away her lungs. 

• A cigarette that helps her swallow any 
angry refusals or shrieks of despair. 
She needs Virginia Stings 150's. 

Suck on that, baby. 



SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now 
May Reduce Your Usefulness To Business. 



Illustration by Louis Michaelson